Nice interview at Redstone Strategy Group's blog with Cathy Casserly, who helped start the Hewlett Foundation's Open Educational Resources (OER) work, and later served as CEO of Creative Commons, on the past, present and future of OER:
What has the OER movement learned over the last 10 years?
When we first released an openly-licensed textbook in the marketplace, if it didn’t look as polished as a publisher’s textbook, it was perceived to be of lower quality. While there may be 350 pages of great content, it wasn’t in the format that teachers and students could use easily. It didn’t have nice photos and pretty layouts. We realized we couldn’t jump too far ahead of where the system is today. So we focused on supporting ecosystems that could produce high-quality, open materials that are aligned with standards, and look like the materials that teachers are used to buying from publishers.
We wanted to leap-frog to our longer-term vision in which teachers and students actively produce materials, and not just consume them. In many ways, OER is not just about providing content; it’s about the process of developing them in an open ecosystem. And that process is also about participatory learning and collaboration. This is the longer-term vision we wanted to jump to, but we learned that we had to build a bridge for teachers from the materials they are familiar with to OER.
A very enthusiastic staff at Grand Valley State University’s Johnson Center for Philanthropy has recently re-launched LearnPhilanthropy.org (LP) with some dazzling new features. The site’s Philanthropy Ecosystem provides a Directory of 200 organizations that form philanthropy’s infrastructure, research, and networking platforms. LP’s Knowledge Library now holds over 600 learning resources carefully catalogued by 50 of the sector’s leading content providers. A single search field will yield resources from across the LP site, or you can browse resources using the site’s Real Simple Taxonomy. Original content now includes webinars, expert advice, and quick-read Learning Briefs on specific topics or career stages – especially for newcomers.
The Hewlett Foundation's Jean McCall (who co-chairs LearnPhilanthropy.org's advisory committee) and Sara Davis (who serves on the board of GMN) are quoted.
Q: So you got 40 staffers in a room, evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. How easy was it to cut through the rancor and find consensus?
A: On day one, we focused on several exercises and case studies that challenged the idea of negotiation being a zero-sum game — the “you win-I lose” calculus. Dissecting successful historic deals based on a collaborative model — including German reunification, the U.S.-Singapore Free Trade Agreement, and various corporate negotiations — helped establish a mindset on how to approach complex negotiations.
We believed, from the start, that most staff were tired and frustrated by congressional gridlock and low productivity and were eager to learn new skills and ways to improve the legislative process. We’re convinced, from our observations and analysis, that our initial beliefs were correct.
The University of the People, a grantee of our Education Program, has announced a new partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to provide accredited, no-tuition higher education to refugees and asylum seekers:
The University of the People, which uses open-source technology and open educational resources to offer low-cost degrees in computer science and business administration, will partner with the UNHCR to admit refugees and asylum seekers even in cases where their previous educational achievement is difficult to prove, because of missing documentation.
Twenty-five refugee students have received a scholarship so far, meaning they will not even have to pay the administration fees charged by the university. Students without scholarships have to pay an administration fee and a charge for each examination they sit, with the total cost of a full, accredited degree coming to around £2,000.
The Fund for Shared Insight, a collaborative effort by seven funders, today announces its first round of grants since its launch in September: $5.26 million in awards to improve philanthropy.
Shared Insight will fund 14 one- to three-year grants designed to encourage and incorporate feedback from the people the social sector seeks to help; understand the connection between feedback and better results; foster more openness between and among foundations and grantees; and share lessons.
“We are thrilled with the interest our open call for proposals has generated as evidenced by the almost 200 proposals received, and the hundreds of organizations that have emailed us and participated in our open conference calls about the requests for proposals,” said Melinda Tuan, Shared Insight project manager. “We expect to learn a lot with and from our selected grantees’ efforts and look forward to sharing the learning along the way.”
The Hewlett Foundation is supporting Shared Insight along with the Ford Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, The JPB Foundation, Liquidnet, the Rita Allen Foundation, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
A couple months ago we published a blog post by our president, Larry Kramer, announcing a new policy on open licensing of the materials grantees create with our funds. Reaction to it—and this has been true of pretty much everything we’ve done related to openness and transparency over the past year—was reassuringly positive. Leaders in the field of open licensing praised us in comments. Colleagues buttonholed us at conferences, wanting to know more. People said nice things about us on Twitter.
Good enough—almost—to compensate for the months of meetings, draft statements, requirements memos, rethinking, informal conversations, timeline discussions, cajoling, and just plain old work that went into it.
That’s not a complaint, mind you, more an explanation of what “transparency” has meant for the Hewlett Foundation and our staff, and what it is likely to continue meaning: an idea for a new way to share what we know, followed by careful deliberation, consensus-building, planning, and changes to our internal systems before we ever get to an announcement of a new policy, let alone the actual, you know, being transparent.
It doesn’t make for the stuff of thrilling blog posts, and people aren’t likely to sing our praises on the Internet, but we continue to make progress on a number of projects related to transparency. Consider this an update.
We’ve made changes to our grants management software and contracting system to allow us to track evaluations of our strategies more easily, and to gather the “work products” that grantees produce with our funds. We’ve revised our proposal and reporting templates to explain the changes we’re making (and the new requirements we’re introducing around open licensing) to our grantees. We’ve gathered evaluations completed over the past few years, and are reviewing those to make sure there’s no confidential information in them that would preclude sharing them publicly. And we’ve made improvements to our online grants database to make it easier to search for grants associated with a particular program or initiative.
We’ve also completed the analysis of our website I wrote about earlier this year. We’re planning on a full redesign of the site in 2015, and to be honest, you won’t see a lot of the work I’ve just described above until that new site is live.
The will to be more open is there, and much of the work to get ready internally for more sharing is done. But without a web platform built for transparency—one that helps make clear the connections between programs and strategies, between staff members and grants and work products and evaluations—we can’t yet say we’re as open as we’d like, or intend, to be. We’re still in the middle, though definitely not stuck.
In case you missed it, that last paragraph was meant to mark the first anniversary of this blog, which launched on November 19, 2013 with a post by Larry Kramer called Learning, Transparency, and Blogs. Over the past year, we’ve published almost 240 posts from more than two dozen contributors, representing many thousands of words and more good ideas than I can count. We’re grateful to everyone who’s taken the time to read what we’ve written, and especially to those of you who’ve shared or commented on it.
Over the coming weeks and months, we’ll continue to use the blog to let you know what we’re thinking about, and provide a way for you to engage with our ideas. We hope you’ll stay with us—let us know when a post sparks questions for you, challenge us when we need challenging. With your help, we’ll do our best to make sure this “Work in Progress” continues to be what Larry hoped it would in that first post: “a lively forum from which everyone can learn.”
Really nice profile of Hewlett Foundation grantee The Texas Tribune on the occasion of its fifth anniversary. Justin Ellis at Nieman Journalism Lab on the innovative business model they're using to fund cutting edge public-interest journalism and the challenges that still lie ahead:
The Tribune was created to be different from the start. Combine the instincts of a reporter with the guile of a door-to-door salesman and throw in an appetite for experimentation — today, on the site’s fifth anniversary, it looks like those instincts have paid off. The staff has collected plenty of accolades for its journalism, having been recognized with the Sidney Hillman Award, Edward R. Murrow Award, IRE Award, and others. It’s averaging nearly 3 million pageviews a month. It’s on or atop any list of America’s most successful nonprofit news outlets. The reporting staff and coverage only continues to grow; it’s hiring a Washington correspondent, paid for through a $350,000 grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.
Grants like that are part of why the Tribune’s business is on sound footing. In five years, the Tribune has raised nearly $27 million to support its work. While the business of journalism today offers less stability than ever before, the Tribune has been able to build a measure of security through a mix of philanthropy, donations, and sponsorships. But success brings spectators, and the Tribune’s business model has many trying to clone it and others continuing to question it.
“The reality is we’re a going concern,” says Evan Smith, the Tribune’s CEO and editor-in-chief. “We’re past the point of being able to get away with not being able to execute at the highest levels because we’re a startup.”
Which is why, five years in, with the ledger looking good and the journalism running strong, the big question for the Tribune is: How do they find more readers?
Education Program Officer Marc Chun explains the concept of "transfer" in education—taking "what was learned in one situation and apply it to new situations"—with an extended (but not belabored) analogy at The Huffington Post:
The authors of the National Research Council publication Education for Life and Work made the case that the ultimate goal of education is the ability to take what was learned in one situation and apply it to new situations. This is called "transfer," which stems from what they called "deeper learning"--mastering content through critical thinking and problem solving, communicating effectively, collaborative problem solving, learning how to learn, and maintaining an "academic mindset" (or the belief in yourself as a learner).
We know that this transfer happens somehow; I then wonder what schools can do to promote and measure it. To illustrate, if you'll allow me to drop a whole load of meta on you right now, I'm going to try to solve this problem by applying what I've learned from my doctoral trainingyears of research obsession with Hollywood secret agents.
Education in India is a paradox. India’s scientists and engineers are dominant in global technology, medicine and other fields. Yet 40 percent of its third graders can’t read words. “The Indian education system has always been good at the top of the distribution — which is where the elites are drawn from,” [Karthik] Muralidharan ["an associate professor of economics at the University of California at San Diego, who has studied primary education in India extensively"] said. “The design of education systems in developing countries has historically focused on screening for high-performing students as opposed to adding value to all students.”
That is changing in India — Pratham is a big reason why — but slowly. “Now in India you don’t need to explain to everyone that kids need to go to school,” Banerji said. “But that children need to learn and understand — that has another 10 years to go.”
As a bonus, the piece features a photograph from Hewlett Foundation Program Officer Dana Schmidt, who produced a photo essay about ASER and similar assessments in Africa for our blog earlier this year.