CK-12 Goes in for Remixing STEM

By Mary Jo Madda

Students in the bricks and mortar world who rip the chapters out of their school textbooks can count on getting sent to detention. Instead, that’s exactly the kind of practice that CK-12 hopes to encourage in the digital realm.

Since 2007, CK-12 has been motivating educators and students to rip and rearrange its open source, digital STEM content to their liking. Now, CK-12 is giving them a place to keep track of that information, as well as ways to monitor student progress in mastering the material by introducing refinements to its student and teacher dashboards.

The dashboards matter because they start to transform the content that CK-12 has been creating into curriculum with all the bells and whistles that teachers need: assessments, assignments, ways to track progress, ways to group students and so on. As co-founder Neeru Khosla describes, CK-12 is evolving and becoming “a richer collection of tools, manipulation, and interaction.”

CK-12 is the online educational content site sponsored by the non-profit CK-12 Foundation. Its main offering is a collection of 88 free editable and customizable e-textbooks (called “Flexbooks”) composed of approximately 5,000 STEM concepts (from life science, like DNA vs. RNA, to sequences and series in calculus). In addition to texts, CK-12 offers its content in more than dozen different ways, such as videos, quizzes, and flashcards.  

Here’s what students and teachers will find in the revamped dashboards:

Student Dashboard: The student dashboard now features a “self-study” feature. Students can track their progress in studying a particular topic on a concept map, which breaks the concept down into smaller, bite-sized chunks. As the student takes timed quizzes for each chunk, he or she can monitor individual progress in mastering that particular concept. Additionally, the student dashboard now features a group function, where students can form “Study Groups” for themselves and their friends, or join a class group created by a teacher.

Teacher Dashboard: The customizable Flexbook feature has always been the prime educator attraction. But now, teachers can create class groups where they can assign Flexbook work, identify students who have late assignments, and track the overall progress of their classes (see photo below). Teachers can track both individual and aggregate performance either via controlled "Class" groups, or those aforementioned "Study Groups," where any member can share content. The teacher can invite students to groups by either providing a code, distributing a URL, or sending an email from the dashboard.

Going forward, CK-12 intends to put more emphasis on all the ways of presenting information other than classic texts -- particularly with the goal of engaging students. For instance, CK-12 continues to grow its collection of “simulations,” or visualizations designed to let students play with abstract concepts  so they become more concrete. As of August 2013, the site had over 200 simulations.

In a world of classical educational content, CK-12 continues to fill its role as the remix of the bunch.

More on CK-12's platform and organization here.

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