Inside scoop on curriculum, teaching and product improvements
How OpenCurriculum is different from other OER platforms

We are often asked how our product is different from OER* repositories (or referritories**) like OER Commons, Curriki, Gooru, Open Ed, and Amazon's upcoming site, to name a few. While we understand that this may not be entirely obvious from each of our marketing pages, I have never placed OpenCurriculum in that category.

That is not to say that these products aren't solving the right problem or that OpenCurriculum shouldn't be considered an alternative OER platform. Instead, it's got more to do with our belief that what defines a company's product / service is not just what they do, but what they choose NOT to do. We have seen that customers (at an individual and institutional level) spend all their energy comparing features. We recommend that they give equal amount of importance to understanding where each of the products/companies FOCUSES their energy and time***.

Where a company focuses their energy is the most sincere reflection of their understanding of the problems customers face. And in this case, a reflection of the company's vision on how teachers can openly share and adapt better curriculum, in order to focus on what matters the most: improving learning outcomes and changing student lives.

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We want to change the way you plan

Planning good lessons is extremely difficult - hats off to you! It's a little sad that in an age of such technological advancement, we cannot say "I want to teach about World War II" and instantly have excellent ideas and techniques to inspire us. Free or paid resources - nothing rescues us time-strapped teachers in need to meet those specific students' or school goals.

We are about to change that, for good!

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Curriculum publishing & conversion with ePub 3.0 Workshops in New Delhi

One group taking part in a publishing process activity

One group taking part in a publishing process activity

During the first two weeks of December, we conducted a series of workshops on building and converting K-12 textbooks in ePub 3.0 at the Central Institute of Educational Technology at NCERT in New Delhi, India. This was in continuation of the process assistance we have been providing the government body and world's largest publisher with the largest known textbook digitization effort in the world. Our goal with this post is to share some elementary understanding of where some of the challenges lay, and more-so, the choices of workshops we made to try to fill some of these gaps.

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5 priorities for OER in K-12 Education

King's Cambell Park Elementary School visit

CC BY 2.0 / Source Flickr: US Department of Education

Yesterday, the US Department of Education launched the #GoOpen campaign to advocate and encourage use of openly licensed educational materials by educators and educational institutions. This is nothing short of, to quote Donald Trump out-of-context, HUGE. This is a landmark achievement in more than a decades' worth of work of hundreds of leaders in education and technology in this space. This also marks the beginning of a new era of educational publishing, one where textbook publishers and textbooks are not the centerpiece of our narrative. It is not going to be long before these ideas permeate education systems around the world, especially in places where cost of educational resources can have significant implications in access to K-12 education and beyond.

As we reflect on our journey so far and celebrate this success with DoE-branded cupcakes, we must take some time to reflect on the bigger challenges that lie ahead of us, primarily as they relate to K-12 education. We might want to consider resisting the urge to look at the product announcements of large technology vendors and nonprofit organizations to believe that the solutions to all our problems are around the corner. Many of these have existed in the past in some form or another.

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Why tablet and laptop initiatives in K-12 education fail

They fail because of an inability to create value with curriculum, instruction and assessment. Not convinced? Allow me to explain.

Over a week ago, the very brilliant Mike Trucano wrote a summary about the use of tablets in K-12 education in several parts of the world, particularly the enthusiasm amongst governments of developing nations to make big bets. He was careful not to exclude the saga of Los Angeles's school district's iPad rollout. It might take a short while of going through the gold on that blog, but a little more reading of his thought-provoking writing will help you soon superficially internalize the complexities in implementing such initiatives. Spend a little more time on sites like infoDev and OLPCNews, and you will be slightly overwhelmed by the theories and magnitude of complexities of these seemingly straightforward IT projects. After all, how hard is it? Isn't it just acquiring a large number of tablets/laptops, setting up WiFi in schools, and getting teachers all excited before giving one to one child?

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The Single Best Glossary of Curriculum Buzzwords

Understanding curriculum design (or is it development?) is hard enough of an art. What makes it extra-challenging is the use of a lot of terminology, across various geographic regions and education systems. There are several times you have conversations with people who are in the same field, but you struggle to comprehend what the other person is saying due to how loaded their sentences are. This makes it hard to do cool work together, and improve and adopt better curriculum.

As it turns out, the folks at UNESCO'S International Bureau of Education think so too. So they have come up with probably one of the finest glossary's of terminology in the curriculum space. It's really concrete and a very handy reference for anyone working on curriculum development or adoption.

Check it out and let us know what you think in the comments section below!

Next Generation Science Standards, and benchmarking science internationally

Grade 7 students conducting experiments on displacement during Science class, Kangding, Sichuan China

Standards have become critical elements of increasingly decentralized K-12 education systems in the current age, as they provide a skeletal framework of target competencies, skills and practices children should aim to achieve to be meeting a certain quality threshhold of desired national/state levels. "...[E]arly state standards helped set the tone for the unprecedented move to align standards in classrooms that we see today" (Glatthorn, Boschee, Whitehead, Boschee - Curriculum Leadership). While there are arguments for and against the facets of standardization, there is a general understanding that it is very difficult to ensure high accountability of student outcomes across a large population.

Common standards serve as an essential element of nation building while ensuring autonomy in curriculum and instruction - standards allow for decentalized control within schools and districts on choices of textbooks and teaching materials, testing, pedagogy, etc. At the same time, they allow for immense economies of scale and advancement of innovation in benchmarking, comparitive policy setting, research, and tools and technologies in education, as these do not have to happen at hyperlocal levels anymore. Undeniably, there is a trade-off with a small loss of local vision setting abilities - but the positives far outweigh the shortcomings. This is the reason why Common Core has created a powerful movement towards building standards around the world.

Why science standards

With Science, the argument for the need for standards not only holds true, but demands even higher emphasis and attention. Science, just like mathematics, and unlike languages, is a subject area where rapid advancement and innovation is changing humanity's understanding of our world constantly.

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Ask Joshua: Top questions from Week 1

Ask Joshua

A little more than a week ago, we launched an experimental (and definitely semi-controversial) initiative called Ask Joshua, which allowed teachers from anywhere in the world to run ideas on new and existing for teaching by a high-schooler. While theoretically-flawed sounding, we wanted to experiment and understand what happens. We do think that students are the customers and are the best at communicating whether or not a pedagogical or curricular style worked for them. Unfortunately, over the years, we have built pretty complex models of instruction and curriculum, and have distanced ourselves from our customers. We don’t think students have all the answers, but they definitely can help us teachers ground their planning.

We were very happy to see so many questions trickling in for Joshua, and we have filtered the top ones with Joshua’a answers below:

Ciro Santilli asked:

When I was in school, I hated teachers who gave exercises without solutions…

When I decide I’ve searched for long enough just let me have the answer before I forget the problem!

Dear teachers: students also have the ability of not looking if they want to, did you know that?! =)

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Student-centered teaching: How to get the most out of the classroom experience

Courtesy audiolucistore on Flickr

I was just at a conference last week here in Japan, and as conferences go, the speakers were somewhat interesting. The real heart of most conferences is in networking, of course, and sharing great ideas on improving, and making our jobs more efficient, more productive, and easier while at the same time providing a high quality of learning opportunities for students. One thing that I heard at the table I was sitting at, when we were on some down time before the next speaker, and there were about 9 teachers at this table having various types of coffee, was “how to make my class more involved, since discussions usually go nowhere.” The teacher was asking us how to make it more productive, because he said it was like “pulling teeth.” He told me he usually stands in front of the class and merely asks questions about what the students read. Now I’m sure everyone has been to the dentist and knows that it is not always the most enjoyable time one can spend in an afternoon, or anytime of the day for that matter, but the real questions is “how to make the class so inviting that everyone wants to participate.”

Like all great classes, there has to be specific and attainable goals, clear objectives, and absolutely particular standards, so that everyone will be able to learn something and not just offer an opinion willy-nilly (that phrase tells you how old I am.)

Fundamental questions should be asked before every time a teacher wants to have a great class:

  1. What is the real purpose of the class?
  2. What are the roles of the students for the class?
  3. What are the goals and objectives the class are working towards?
  4. What standards should students be working on by participating?
  5. And, the most important, how does one actually enable each and every student to participate when the average class size is reaching 30, 35 and for some classes, 40 students?

So when several people looked at me for my response to this dilemma, I said, “You can’t be standing in front of the class all the time, expecting students to participate when they really have no idea what to say half the time.”

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Fulfill your teaching cravings with some Yummy(math) MARS!


Who’s hungry for some extraterrestrial math? For if you are in raising your hand right now, we have some great news for you!

Based on your amazing suggestions, we are now introducing ~30 real life math lessons from Yummymath and 100+ highly-aligned and assessment focused math lessons from MARS’s (Mathematics Assessment Resource Service) Mathematics Assessment Project inside OpenCurriculum’s CCSS Mathematics library. Thanks to the authors of the content, every lesson has very carefully been crafted and tagged to standards to ensure solid coverage, while not compromising one bit on highest levels of creativity.

Subscribe to MARS and Yummymath today for being in the loop on all their future updates and conversations – it’s only going to get better! Also look forward to more amazing lessons and activities from publishers you love and adore in the coming months.

A big thanks to Brian Marks from Yummymath for working closely with us to make this happen!

Announcing ‘Home’, and a free Common Core math lesson library


Yesterday, we introduced video lesson remixing on OpenCurriculum. But what is remixing content of any use without great content in the first place? I’m psyched to announce OpenCurriculum Home, a window into all great lesson planning and other curricular content for K-12 teachers. While we hope to grow into every single subject out there, we are welcoming you Home with some mathematics appetizers. As a part of this release, we are also releasing of a free (and mostly open source) Common Core math curriculum library of over 5k materials – this is huge! This is one of the largest mathematics K-12 content collections EVER – and it being well-curated makes it all the more special.

Going into the math library, you will find excellent activities from Illustrative Mathematics and Mathalicious, entire amazing lessons from EngageNY and Dan Meyer, exercises from Khan Academy and a lot more. All this content is organized by Common Core standards, ranked by popularity and type, and very easily sortable and filtered.

One of the math libraries

However, probably the most important parts of this library are ones that you might miss if you don’t focus too hard. In any of these curated sets of content, anyone is allowed to post their lessons for the community – and increasingly popular content surfaces to the top. There is also a community Q&A section where you can make specific requests for resources that you are unable to find on the listings. For the first couple of weeks, we guarantee a less than 24 hour response time by someone in our team who will dig up resources you need to get your lesson ready.

Top requests

We truly hope you enjoy this! Like always, waiting to hear from you at hello [at] opencurriculum [dot] org.

Varun, Joshua, Z, Kathy, Shailin

UPDATE 07/29/14: We forgot, but now would like to extend our big thank you to several of the teachers who gave us tremendous amounts of insight in building the product. Some of the people we would like to highlight include: Bridget Mason, Daniel Schneider, Kristin Johnson, Nathan Kraft, Andrew Stadel, Monique Jeffers, Elizabeth Hodges, Susan Creenan, Sarah Hagan, Fawn Nguyen.

Introducing: Video lesson remixing with EDpuzzle

EDPuzzle + OpenCurriculum

I am thrilled to share with you our partnership with education technology company EDpuzzle, which allows you to remix any video lesson content on OpenCurriculum. You may remember that until now we only offered you the ability to remix non-multimedia content using our Google-docs like WYSIWYG editor – but now we are opening remix functionality on all our video content and video YouTube or Vimeo video content that you choose to import (through its URLs) into your folders. Clicking on the Remix button on any video instantly takes you into an easy-to-use video editor where you can add your own voice annotations, trim the video, and even add Q&A for your students! All this. For now, we haven’t made a way to bring back this remixed content back into OpenCurriculum (apart from general HTML embedding) – but we are positive to bring this functionality in the future based on your interest.

Big thanks to team EDpuzzle: Quim, Xavi, Jordi and Santi for an amazingly speedy integration and excitement around this.


Make Learning Meaningful Through Self-Discovery, Part I

Some teachers opt to take the approach of training students to memorize a bunch of facts or equations without allowing them to explore why they are true or how they relate to each other. This can make the students’ job more difficult as now they must attempt to memorize each piece of information as a discrete unit. In this case, the student has no basis of connection, but it also becomes boring for the student to memorize information in this manner. Plus, with an exhausted mind, the student will likely forget much of what he or she tried to cram once its short-term use [for taking a test] has expired.

I took Chinese for four years between middle school and high school and at one point my Chinese teacher shared a cool analogy with me that gave me a suggested way to continue my studies, so I will share it now, because it is perfectly applicable to this teaching misstep. She said at that point that my grammar was very strong, that my house had a solid infrastructure. Now, according to her, the next step was to start decorating it, learning more words that could be used in all the grammar structures I had come to understand. The point I am trying to make is that one cannot decorate a house without having a house. In a classroom setting, that means students cannot expand their problem-solving and critical thinking skills when all they have are seemingly independent facts floating through their minds. They may have all of the pieces of the house laid out, but now it is your task, as a teacher, to show students the blueprint for putting the house together.

Once you realize that it is easier for students to synthesize knowledge after giving them a bit of guidance on how facts tie together to form concepts, the students’ learning capabilities will greatly increase. All that remains is the question, “How do I make my teaching as meaningful as possible?” I will cover this question in part II.

Don’t Just Learn It, Practice It!

Students of all ages often fall into the trap of thinking that they understand material as soon as their teacher is through with explaining how to do a problem related to said concept. Really, a student can easily look at another’s work and automatically nod, “I understand what is going on” with each step, but do they truly understand? Would they be able to replicate the steps on a similar problem by themselves?

Perhaps. But one can never know this for sure until they’ve actually gotten a chance to do so. Even if they can replicate another’s steps a single time, there is a differentiation between knowing and understanding that must be made. If one knows a procedure, it merely means they can robotically replicate the procedure for a different problem as long as no wrenches are thrown in. But once the person that knows a procedure is presented with a problem where the verbatim procedure they learned does not work, they feel defeated, frustrated, and helpless. The person who knows material is inflexible in their approach to solving problems, and that is never a good thing. However, students may not realize this until they are in college if previous teachers don’t allow students to test their flexibility and adaptability when solving problems. It is suggested that you evaluate the formatting of assignments you give to your students, as you may be able to improve their intellectual profit for completing your assignments.

Here is an analogy for the above situation: you hand your student a rock and tell him that he can shatter glass with it. He proceeds to shatter ten pieces of glass with the rock. Then you take him to a site filled with lava. With no other option previously presented to him, the student throws his rock at the lava, hoping it will “break” the lava. He is shocked and disappointed to see that the lava just eats up the rock. If you don’t tell the student to try digging for a hose to extinguish the lava, then you may have missed giving your student one of the tools he needs.

One who understands material, on the other hand, can manipulate the underlying concepts to achieve so much more than the student who merely knows material. Then the question arises, “how do we get students to go from knowing material to understanding material?” The answer may surprise you because it is so simple: practice. And when I say practice, I advise that you do not present a worksheet with twenty problems that are essentially identical. There are two disadvantages to this practice: one, students will eventually get bored of rote repetition and will subconsciously “tune out,” defeating the purpose of giving the assignment in the first place. The second disadvantage is that such assignments make students think that completing math problems is a one-dimensional science, whereas in reality it is a multidimensional art.

Thus part of your job as a teacher is to prepare students to face this reality as they advance in their academic careers. Assignments should contain a wide variety of problems where the exact chain of steps required to solve a problem is seldom reused. This allows students to exercise their creativity and critical thinking skills from early on, and trains them to be flexible while problem-solving, rather than robotic.

One of the best ways to do this is by putting problems into context. Disguising math problems as real-world scenarios gives students practice performing computations like non-word problems do, but they also have to set up equations themselves, which serves as a check for students as to whether they understand the underlying concepts and have not merely memorized equations. Believe me, studying mathematics in real life is about a lot more than memorizing equations. Having participated in math competitions for five years, I know that problems require a vast array of applications of fundamental concepts to be solved, and this same idea extends to other disciplines as well. The ideal math curriculum should prepare students for this, the real world, by promoting understanding and ingenuity. Those are the qualities that have allowed many famous mathematicians and scientists have risen from the ashes; try not to make it harder for your students to be the next of these!

Want to help us protect our Internet freedom?

Friends, Teachers, Internet(wo)men,

Lend me your ears. Hear me for my cause, and be silent that you may hear. Today, we are under threat. The past 20 years have been huge in the world of communication around the world – primarily because it has given each one of us a freedom that we previously never had – and it’s called the Internet. It has improved our lives in far too many ways to try to elucidate – and it’s become a freedom we have all taken for granted. It’s a freedom millenials don’t know how to live without. A freedom is more than being able to access a new form of liberation – it is the ability to have the choices of opportunities. And boy has the Internet given us opportunities. We have built knowledge over it, our social lives revolve around it, and many of us don’t remember the last time we visited an electronics store to purchase something.

Entire economies depend on its founding principles of openness, and OpenCurriculum couldn’t exist without inherent faith in the purity and innocence of this medium. There is just no argument around openness when its distribution is like a water faucet whose flow is not democratically controlled and determined.

Yet, here we are, where the stupidities and ignorance of the greedy is dragging us into a hole we might never be able to get out from. For these past few months the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) has been very seriously deliberating and moving forward on new rules on network neutrality that allow Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to discriminate amongst internet traffic. Yes, this is a different form of slavery – and what’s different is that you and us are going to get pretty severely affected in a time when man is not too far from discovering life on other planets.

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Now, you can do the obvious

Thanks to a complaint from @coreyrobinson, we decided to allow users to do the obvious: view and change their personal profile / preferences. We have started simple, so go ahead and try out accessing your preferences here or through the menu on the top toolbar.

Popup preferences


This is the power of user feedback on our site. If something bothers you, just send us a message. We will resolve it sooner than you think!

Teacher spotlight: Ms. Mason + her weekly lesson plan template

Ms. Bridget Mason, a high school geometry teacher originally from Chicago and now teaching in Philadelphia, isn’t your average math teacher. Her set of highly effective activities & engagement tricks inside and outside the classroom, accompanied by her sheer passion about everything she does around school, make her the role model for every young teacher in the school district. I still remember talking to her for the first time – it was around 2:30am her time (with a school day the next morning) and she wouldn’t give me any less than the most insightful perspectives into her best practices and early learning as a teacher. This week, she decided to do something special – she decided to share her to-the-point weekly lesson planning template that helps her “visualize the entire week”. And we have done the bare minimum of paying it forward by allowing any of you to build off of that (details below the interview).

We caught up with Ms. Mason to learn about her pro-tips for new teachers and exactly learn how she turned her “exhausting” planning process into a far more effective and smarter process:

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How to make a backwards lesson plan

Understanding by Design and UbD are registered trademarks of ASCD and the sample lesson was created by Grant Wiggins. We thank them for releasing this framework to the world.

7-minute lesson planning

I am excited to share some new features which will allow you to drastically reduce the amount of time you spend in planning your lessons (we think its going to come down to 7 minutes per plan – do correct us if we are wrong). This comes with the ability to not just place these template-based lessons in folders, as was always possible before, but also inside Units, a new concept we are releasing with this planning update. Here is what it looks like:

This is a very early version of these features, and we are looking to constantly improve this, so if you have any feedback or suggestions (based on the video or after you try it out), drop me an email at There is a lot of amazing things that can be done at this point with these features to take them to the next level, and your advice/thoughts will actually be the most consequential in the process.

Get pulled…by our articles

I remember reading it all the way home after finishing up another semester of college. Vivid words, sharp connotations, and a diction I wish was my own. I sat on the couch and continued reading, and when my mother wanted to fix up the chairs, I sat on the floor with it still in my hands – I didn’t want to let it go. I had heard many things of Toni Morrison’s writing, her book Beloved was exceptionally written and I was glued to every page. But I am not writing this to praise Beloved or Toni’s unique style, or provide my own annotations as to what happened to Beloved, but rather, I am amazed at the Toni Morrisons working in Content at OpenCurriculum, creating that same pull for others in concepts.

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Print is Alive!

My fascination with print started early. As a young boy living at the edge of a jungle in Nepal, I would sometimes find a candy wrapper with a different language written on it. There weren’t many man-made objects around, so finding a shiny plastic or exotic paper with colors and letters on it was always fascinating to me.

As a boy, I was fortunate enough to attend good schools, where my love for reading was born. I read everything I could find, scanning words, examining the various sizes and colors of books, and fingering the various papers.

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Announcing OpenCurriculum

Today, I have some great news to share with you. It gives me great pleasure to announce the launch of OpenCurriculum: our online platform to create, access and share K-12 learning content. OpenCurriculum is the product of two years of work driven by a vision of open, collaborative, and free educational content for all.

This is a follow-up to our official launch / demo day event at the Hub, San Francisco, end of last week, where we were judged as the venture with the biggest impact. Just one look at what we have created easily explains why.

Points of Light CivicX Demo Day

Before getting into the nitty-gritty product details and features, I want to talk about the significance of the launch in the context of moving open K-12 education forward. 2-and-a-half years ago, I made a very strong commitment to opening up K-12 curricular content creation and distribution, coming in with a very strong belief in democratization and freedom in education in development of society. Fortunately, there were some amazing models and ecosystems to tap into, like open source software, Wikipedia, Mozilla and the OER movement, to discover patterns and best practices, alongside discovering opportunities to fill gaps. We have worked hard so far, with very limited resources, to stay true to our mission of bringing openness and innovation to K-12 education. Today, I am psyched to bring you into this vision as we open our doors to the community! All this means more discovery and access to better educational materials, more authentic local educational discussions and more & easier emergence and dissemination of ideas and best practices.

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Moe: The Creation of

What makes an icon successful? And then how does one go about implementing that knowledge? An icon is a mascot of sorts that is a company’s way of creating an emotional interface with their customers. An icon like Tony the Tiger not only gives a recognizable images that represents Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes, but it also unquestionably links the brand with a persona through which the company can communicate with their audience. A good mascot is more than cute, well-modeled or accurately drawn—a good character causes the user to really connect emotionally with a simple illustration. Unconsciously, all the time, we are empathizing and interacting with the simplistic, humanoid models around us; we anthropomorphize in order to find emotional context in the technology we are constantly confronted with in our everyday lives. As technology continues to far outpace the average humans’ ability to understand it, it becomes more and more of an imperative to reconnect the cold interface of advanced technology to human emotionality. The trend we see of companies presenting their users with visual items to personify the ‘personality’ of the company marks a move into a more interactive, satisfying relationship with technology.

A couple months before the summer of 2013 started, I got an email from a man named Varun with an email address i didn’t recognize. Being accustomed to spammers targeting college students with fake job offers, I skimmed over the email at first, moving on to more pressing emails from professors. What caught my eye in the email was the name Jen: a student who attends the same university as me whom I had met up with to have lunch a month previous. She had gone to middle school with my older sister and when we discovered we were going to the same university, across the country from where we had both grown up, we decided we needed to meet up. I had talked with her about how I was confused about what my job opportunities for the summer would look like -I was a sophomore Math and Fine Arts major and I had never had a real ‘business’ job. It turns out that Jen knew Varun and had brought my name up to him. So quickly I was whisked off into phone calls and interviews. It became apparent to Varun that he had an opportunity in hiring me that he had perhaps not considered for this summer. As a mathematician with some programming experience I would be able to work on smaller projects that needed to get done and as an artist I would be able to revamp the current mascot and really do him justice. Varun explained to me in my interview how important it was to have this connection to your audience and how his current panda mascot might need someone just like me to step back and reassess the situation. This was incredible. I was going to be able to pursue my two passions in one job, something I simply had not expected due to their differences.

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Thoughts on Affordable Private Schools in India

For as far as I can remember, Affordable Private Schools, often just referred to as the APS sector, have been of much interest to me. I have even constantly talked about it, including on my personal blog. When I visited India in December 2011, I made it a point to visit a couple of such schools in Hyderabad, after being hosted by some wonderful people at the Indian School Finance Company and the International Development Exchange (IDEX). Very interestingly, it was only a couple of weeks back when I got to understand the motivations when I met the founder David Kyle in Washington DC.

Recently, I also had the chance of getting to know two IDEX fellows, Hila Mehr and Yasmin Lakhani, who were kind enough to share really deep insights on how they viewed the challenges and opportunities while working in these schools over a year’s time. Hila and her co-author Kim Cambell best capture some of the reasons what educational technology can do for such schools, in her article on the ed-tech debate site:

“Technology works in environments that support it. APS schools self-select for parents who are willing to invest financially in their children’s education despite their low-income. This can create an environment where parents are open to trying new approaches to helping their children succeed academically. We witnessed this personally in the tablet pilots when parents showed a willingness to pay for personal tablets that their children would use in the classroom despite never having used a tablet themselves.

Because the schools are for-profit, capital investments must have some kind of value-add to justify the cost. These levers of accountability can create incentives for trying new technologies and actually being invested in adoption.

But perhaps the most important reason why we need to be having a conversation about ed-tech in APS is because private schools are the future of education for low-income communities throughout the world. Over the past few years, we’ve witnessed a quiet exodus from public schools in slums throughout the world. Enrollment in private schools across India has increased from 18.7% in 2006 to 28.3% in 2012. The Pratham’s annual ASER report adds: “If this trend continues, by 2018 India may have 50% of children attending private schools even in rural areas.” The trend of increased enrollment in private schools is growing from Lahore to Lesotho and shows no signs of slowing.

Private education is going to be a substantial part of educating children, so it’s in everyone’s interest that the quality of private schools be the best they can be. Through thoughtful implementation and well-designed solutions, technology can help accomplish that.”

I highly recommend a read of the report produced by Hila and Ben Mayer on designing educational technology for the APS sector in India.

Intern Speaks: About Me

Hi! I am a rising sophomore at Carnegie Mellon University studying Information Systems. My entrance into the world of solving global educational problems came in January, when I registered for the Heinz College Social Innovation Solutions Challenge. The goal of the challenge was to split students into groups to brainstorm products or services that meet a global need. This was the first year the event was opened to undergraduates, and I believe there were only four in the competition . The groups were randomly assigned by topic, and my group decided to search for solutions to educational problems in Latin America. I managed to keep the fact that I was at least 7 years younger than all other members of my group a secret until the day before our final report was due because I didn’t want them to reject my ideas due to lack of experience (they were more intrigued than disdainful but I thought it was legitimate concern).

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And we go… live!

It gives me a tonne of joy and pride to announce that OpenCurriculum is now live. We are going live with 43 high-quality articles (with a lot more in the pipeline) and ~300 associated learning resources, including quizzes, videos, games, websites, etc. All for free! At this point, this is what our home page looks like:

OC Homepage

While this is not a main launch of our platform, as we are very much gearing towards bringing you and your contributions in into the experience of using OpenCurriculum, I would still like to share with you some of the amazing things we have released today and give you a little sneak peek into what we are spending our near future energies on, leading up to our launch.

Article and resource links

Article and resource links

Very early, while browsing our growing collection of articles, you will observe each article has been linked to related open educational resources from the web. This is extremely useful to teachers and learners alike, as it models their usage patterns in looking for various kinds of content related to a particular topic. While the article will aim to serve as the definitive and canonical “textbook” resource, the related rich resources will extend the capabilities of the article’s text/images to broaden the range of resources one can learn from. This list is ever changing, and is going to depend entirely on user inputs and ratings in the future.



You will also notice the really big focus and presence of search all throughout your usage experience. Search has been an extremely crucial aspect of this release, as it points to our continued commitment to reduce the time it takes to look for exactly the resources you are looking for, and reduce wasted time in the process. So, apart from building a search functionality with rich indexing of content, we are introducing powerful search filters, for high-speed searches and filtering through all resources on the website. As we bring in more content and evolve the search tools further, we promise to make these filters even more versatile with tighter control on what you are looking for.

Support for LaTeX in Math

Support for LaTeX in Math

Very early into planning this release, we realized how important math equation rendering on the website was. Not many pure web resources support its rendering on the web browser, with inline math seeming like a goal for the future shown to us in Minority Report. And so, we’d like to announce the support for true LaTeX rendering in all our articles. This means that every user on OpenCurriculum will be able to write and collaborate on LaTeX math article in our text editors (after our forthcoming releases). We expect this to explode with the math community’s interest in creating and sharing material on the web.

What’s coming ahead

Okay, let me try to tell you just enough such that we keep some excitement in anticipation for our future releases going.

Today, OpenCurriculum is a website. Articles, images, resources, search – everything you would expect a resource aggregator in the Web 1.0 world to be. But we are thinking far ahead, and believe in the power of community and rich social engagement in creating and sharing content, and that is what a real platform is all about. In trying to be the largest high-quality article repository on the web, we need a large community and lots of actively created and edited articles, much like Wikipedia and open source software. It is this direction that we are embracing to the fullest – so expect to see a lot more of YOU being at the center of activity on OpenCurriculum.

Until then, to put it in the words of one of our fans, OpenCurriculum is OPEN!

A little bit about me…

So here I am – a Chemical and Biomedical Engineer by major – and yet I port content online. I’ve only ever learned about distillation columns and fugacity, and so how did this jump into the open education world happen? Well, it’s…complicated.

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Need for a real OER API

One of the early goals of OpenCurriculum’s platform is to bring with it an API (application programming interface) to provide developers the access to thousands of OERs (open educational resources) we will be indexing and the community will be creating in the months to come. To that, you may ask: hold on – aren’t there already free external APIs for the massive OER repositories on the web, like on OERCommons, Curriki or Gooru?

If you are asking such a question, hats off! You already seem to know a lot about the state of this space. But what you may not know is that there actually is not a single usable OER repository API amongst there options and more. OERCommons maintains an internal API shared only with limited network partners and Curriki doesn’t not implement a third-party developer API. Gooru, on the other hand, actually implements an API, but no experienced or novice web developer may call this very usable. With manual registration of developers and lack of support for unauthenticated requests to open content, the APIs flexibility feel restricted. We believe that practices like these significantly deter and stifle innovation, and we wish to fix this.

OpenCurriculum has begun a journey of building a REAL developer API. An API that will give access to objects and native content types including true external URLs, so that developers get the opportunity to create rich applications with OERs, and innovate without bounds. But until the day we release such an API, if you are a developer, we hope you can sit tight and watch for our updates, because when we do, we will give you tremendous power.

New Year and exciting announcements

Over this past year of 2012, we have had a bumpy yet enjoyable experience in creating and releasing a product, and then bringing it down as it failed to meet our and the community’s expectations. It has been hard to digest, but the amount we have learned over this period has given us a tonne of energy to strike back and and give this another shot, a better shot.

During the process, we have been fortunate to make some relationships with people who wish to go out of the way to help us realize this big opportunity. One of such groups is ThrillMill, whose newest program Hustle Den is where we have found our first official incubation. Unlike several other incubators of this nature, Hustle Den has been gracious to support us despite being a non-profit entity. This is important and much appreciated at several levels as this gives us the opportunity to realize our ambitious product goals, much like for-profit entities, without having to partner at unconditional terms. We have moved from our shared workspace in Oakland (Pittsburgh, PA) at Project Olympus, and are now based in East Liberty, Pittsburgh, around a hub of new activity.

What’s even more exciting is the work we are doing to release our new early product out to the public. Our new platform is not only developed using a completely different stack of technologies, but is also very different in terms of the value proposition to our customers. We plan to go into final testing stages by early February and release some parts of our platform between mid and late February. Until then, we are going to use this blog as a means to communicate our progress, so make sure to sync the feeds from this blog to your devices to stay tuned to whatever we are upto. Gracias!