open education resources from sxswedu

FROM SXSWedu: Day 1 of Tony's patrol of the SxSWedu grounds in Austin left him feeling like a kid playing in a big boys' playground. (A surprisingly large number of teachers in the crowd, whereas he expected to see more of the startup hipster youngins.) The conference kicked off with a virtual hookup with two other major conferences going on: CoSN in D.C., and the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education, just down the street. (Tweeters noted the irony whenever the connection went down.) Remarks from Larry Johnson, of the New Media Consortium, set the tone for the conference: what it means to be living in a digital world, and what folks can do to leverage existing technology. Many references to the Horizon Report released last month and its prophetic visions of the future. Most memorable line: the concept of "open" is no longer just a trend but a real value, entwined with ideals of transparency.

The highlight presentation so far--in terms of actual research and not just grandiose statements--goes to David Wiley of Brigham Young University. (He's also a senior fellow at Digital Promise.) With support from the Hewlett Foundation, Wiley spent two years tracking the use of open textbooks in science classes in Utah to find out how much schools can really save. Some promising findings: schools spent $14,400 spent on 2,690 high school open science textbooks, which comes out to a paltry $5.35 per book. (And he thinks that cost can be even lower.) Check out this fun, versatile calculator where you can tweak variables to compare the costs of open and traditional textbooks.

How do traditional publishers feel about that trend? Wiley contends they are beginning to accept that they will cede ground to the OER movement. Publishers are instead shifting their focus to serving up hi-quality digital content, such as Pearson's MyMathLab, which he believes will be a profitable "safe space" for them for at least a couple more years.

And quite an inspirational speech from Reading Rainbow's (and Star Trek's) Levar Burton, who reminded us to never lose sight of the role of storytelling in creative learning, regardless of the medium. Stop teaching to the test, he urges. Engage kids to channel their imaginations to build narratives that "tap into the higher aspect of what it means to be human, which is to be creative." Look for a Reading Rainbows app in the coming weeks, for which he's currently the curator-in-chief--meaning he's pretty neck deep in children's stories and fairy tales as we speak.

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