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Connexions Conference 2011 (Part 1)

Part 1:

I attended the, once again fantastic, Connexions Conference at Rice University. This year had a great emphasis on expansion efforts – both global and uses of Open Educational Resources. If you are interested in viewing conference photos, become a Facebook fan of Connexions. You can also view the tweets using the Twitter identifier of #cnxconf.

Dr. Joel Thierstein, Executive Director of Connexions, introduced the conference. He announced that there are now over 17,000 modules on Connexions, attracting over 2,000,000 distinct visitors. One of my highlights of the conference was the inspirational keynote speech by Mr. Hal Plotkin, Senior Policy Advisor in the U.S. Dept of Education, working directly for Dr. Martha Kanter, U.S. Under Secretary of Education. I am honored to have worked with Hal during his tenure as a Board of Trustees member of the Foothill-De Anza Community College District where I teach. Hal was an initiator and a champion of OER use locally and nationally and continues to actively promote OER worldwide.

Barbara Illowsky, PhD Professor of Mathematics & Statistics, De Anza College

Among the remarks Hal made were that part of Health Care and Education Bill passed in the Legislature allocates $2 billion of savings achieved by reforming the student loan system to the Trade Adjustment Assistance Act. The Department of Labor will oversee these funds.  All products produced under the first $500,000,000 of funding from these DOL grants require Creative Commons By licenses.

Hal went on to describe inspirational future scenarios of how OER will help careers, learning and even peace in the future. He also cautioned that to continue to receive funding in the future, we need EVIDENCE, as in data (double blind studies,honesty, documentation of success and failure, “open sharing of positive and negative results in as robust as possible”), to “make [the] promise of continuous improvement… real concern about customers … full commitment to a culture of evidence … [and to] adhere to principles of universal design.” Promoting OER, Hal stated that OER are the tools to increasing educational access for all, thus fulfilling one of President Obama’s goals. Finally,Hal described the eTwinning movement in Europe. This movement links primary and secondary schools across Europe to work together, such as a French school studying British History being linked with a school in England. (Note: More information on eTwinning can be found at: http://www.etwinning.net .)

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