Cracking the Books ‘ User-Generated Content in Education

Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Clyde Boyer – Trinity Education Group
Ron Reed – RL Reed Consulting
Anita Givens – Texas Education Agency
Margarita Pinkos – MPinkos Education Consultants

"Age considers; youth ventures." This aphorism has never seemed more real than in a typical U.S. public school classroom: the students are operating on several levels simultaneously in media-saturated environments, while classroom teachers and publishers all seem to be standing on the sidelines, trying to catch up.

Canon YouTube Video put together by a student in Korea. Hundreds of people have learned to play this song just by this video. This is a very atypical learning (informal) learning environment.

Type 3 words into YouTube for what you’re trying to accomplish. Search for "Graphinc Linear Equations." Students post comments thanking the poster for putting the information online. Same "think you" comments from GED test-taker as well as an honors math student.

Education Trends:

  • Mobility
  • User Created Content
  • Learning Communities (youtube, facebook, social netoworking"

Culture eats strategy every day of the week.
What is the culture of these user-created learning content?

Vinton Cerf was the hero of a dark world (father of the internet)

  • All these computers in the world, but they can talk now!
  • Learning: Change = opportunity

Connections System from Rice University (

  • CMS for educational content
  • Repository of that educational content
  • Spreads the content in various different ways (online, mobile, hard copy textbook).
  • Over 15,000 modules woven into nearly 1000 collections
  • Everything is modularized for repurpose if needed, update a module at a time, not the entire book.
  • Openness – everyone can create content! Unfortunately not everything is wonderful because of this. How do you maintain quality? Lenses.
  • Lenses – allowing for the good quality people to endorse good high-quality content.
  • Frictionless Remixing – you can put in new stuff whenever you want or need (xml and OAI). Everything is Creative Commons based licensed.
  • Customization – lightweight branding vs. full-scale branding in your own window. Zoning – community can rope off areas (k-12 doesn’t need to see medical content). Enterprise Rhaptos – states can run their own version of the software.
  • Textbooks are still the #1 way of learning in the US. Technology isn’t always available to move away from that.

Ning Network (

  • Build your own social network around whatever areas you need.
  • Over 1,400 educators are sharing information and practice in this network. "You met each other once at this event, come back and share more."
  • Share what you’re doing in the classroom with other teachers.
  • Mentoring happening, Find out what works and doesn’t work.
  • No course management system from Ning, so the system is still evolving.

Second Life

  • Set up a virtual island in Second Life.
  • For teaching ready to be on the cutting edge, this works really well.
  • It’s like a webinar with an avatar.


  • A design asks questions, "what problem are we solving?"
  • What are we solving with open source textbooks? What do textbooks solve?
    It’s a pathway to literacy.
  • The most telling thing we’re solving with open source textbooks is cost. States don’t have a lot of money right now. Many changes are, and always will be driven by cost.
  • Not only is the cost lower for these textbooks, but many times the quality is higher.
  • Challenges: How do you get textbooks? Vetting sometimes lowers the quality of textbooks. Looking at this… do we even need textbooks?
  • What if we allow students and learning groups to define their own resources? Kids can structure their own resources.
  • Textbooks are written for the classroom (one single source) and NOT for students. A single student will have issues accessing that only source.
  • Students will probably figure things out before we (educators) do.

What states are doing the best job leveraging the best learner created content?

  • Texas is going a pretty good job. There is an open-access education initiative that puts Texas in the forefront because it allows open content to be used as the primary text. California allows it to be used, but only as a supporting text.
  • Open texts are being taken on world-wide – China, Brazil. There are many forces against it in the US.
  • The access to technology in large enough numbers may be limiting this too.

What’s being done to incent people to contribute

  • Give teachers professional visibility (teachers are busy).
  • Add e-commerce system to the system, and add some sort of payment. Trade funds for creation and/or use. What about .99 for a lesson plan (ala Apple)?
  • If you publish in an open setting, you’re more likely to get it used world-wide – tenure calls for this.

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