What Can Digitization Do For Learning?

“What can digitization do for learning?” This is the fundamental question that has driven the team at CK-12 and motivates us to innovate. It stimulates a much more intriguing thought process than the more mundane “how do we digitize a textbook?” or “how do we get curriculum into the virtual world?” We don’t just ask ourselves what it would take to make great content accessible to all students, but rather we question what would make the content more meaningful to the students.

The traditional educational system forces students into a constrained paradigm. One that demands they learn in a school setting with “fixed time and variable learning” sessions (i.e. preset 55 minute lessons covering a limited and contrived set of information). We laud the ability of some students to take in information through a lecture or through a textbook, and that is not something to undermine, but we also need to be cognizant of the needs of all the other students. It is a moral imperative that we recognize that many students need to see applications in motion, or need to fiddle with a few parameters, or just need to hear a topic described in a slightly different way to fully understand it. That is why CK-12 Foundation seeks to understand the more complex alternatives that technology allows and ventures down the new avenues created by the digital world. Hence our incessant pondering, “What can digitization do for learning?”

On a deeper level, when we think about fixed time and variable learning, one thing becomes clear, “block time” learning is destructive. This is because it interrupts student’s learning – imagine just when you start thinking about something more deeply, you have to stop and start thinking about something else. We need to bring these disrupted elements together. While we cannot change the conditions within schools, we at CK-12 empower students by providing resources that allow for maximized, self-paced, uninterrupted learning.

Our first initiative was to uncover ways that the old textbook could be reinvigorated through a digital medium. For us to do this, we had to identify the core values afforded by textbooks. For instance, what do the hard bound covers really provide? Well, they give direction and provide boundaries for comprehensive coverage of a particular subject. But those boundaries are often far too rigid. We thus iteratively redesigned the model in the digital realm by first coining the idea of “FlexBooks”. Secondly we realized through digitization we can provide many other abilities, such as direction for learning through dynamic maps that allow for self-paced and self-directed learning or more dynamic teacher guided instruction. Hence, with that in mind, we decided to breakdown subjects into discrete and complete units that express basic ideas – concepts – which we then linked in logical ways – concept-maps.

But these aren’t the only things one can do with digitization. At CK-12 we recognize the value of tinkering and experimenting; therefore we provide interactive simulations that engage students and allow them to manipulate variables on their own, focused and uninterrupted. This means CK-12 provides contextualized content for learning in a multitude of ways from different instructors (think: Khan Academy, Dan Meyers, etc) so the students can find the one they learn best from or that allows things to “click” for them. In the end what this means is that we can contextualize a plethora of different pieces: content, lesson plans, critical thinking questions, exercises, study guides, real world applications, activity sheets, and more. This allows a student to find different representations of content in one place through different modalities, synchronizing the “learning moments”.

In order for us to be content providers who are learning focused, we needed to create multi-modal content that meets ALL of the students’ needs; we had to open our platform. This meant we allowed educators to create, assemble, remix, and distribute the free resources we provide. In doing so, we have allowed for localization and personalization and we have made it possible for our offerings to grow exponentially with the growth of our community. Educators within a district or state, or country, or even internationally, can work together to create more and more diverse content covering more and more subjects.

CK-12’s efforts represent a unique approach to solving the education problem. We are not simply throwing money at the issue with a political agenda, and we are not creating more intricate technological services that serve a particular niche of learners. Instead, we are meeting students at their own level and creating a platform that allows students to find exactly what they need when they need it. Our long term vision at CK-12 is that one day all students will have access to the information they need, to get the education they deserve to build an educated society.

20 Million Thank You’s!

CK-12 Foundation has reached a major milestone today! For the past 2 years, we have strived everyday to ensure students the world over don’t fall by the wayside simply because their schools, in the face of intensifying budget cuts, are unable to provide quality educational resources. Today we proudly announce that between content downloads and pageviews we have delivered more than 20 million learning opportunities to students everywhere – without charging a cent.  11 million of those coming in the last 4 months alone! For that, we wish to sincerely THANK YOU – our growing community of teachers, administrators, students, and other users. Without your voice, support, and enthusiasm for CK-12, we would never have been able to affect so many students’ lives. To all of you that have shared our free offerings, we appreciate you.

With that said, we know that we have a lot more work to do. Don’t worry; we aren’t going anywhere! Next milestone 50 million!

Enabling Social Learning – CK-12 Introduces its New StudyHELP Facebook App!

CK-12 is always striving to provide new ways for students and teachers to collaborate and learn K-12 concepts in multiple ways, so today we are introducing the StudyHelp platform on Facebook. Students can now get answers to their homework questions, anytime (even when an assignment is due next morning!)


The “Ask” feature provides the ability for students to ask questions instantly while they are learning at home or away from their classroom. It allows someone struggling with a problem or topic and who could really use help engage with other users…even if the other person is halfway across the globe!

The “Ask” section provides the student/teachers to post questions/answers anonymously.

Huddle was created to allow users to learn in groups and to further facilitate the users learning process. Teachers or students may create new Study Groups on a specific subject or question and find other student/teachers to collaborate on the project or problem they have. Users can also join other public groups either by searching for a group or by clicking on one of the groups that was recommended based on the users interests.

The explore option provides students the ability to explore CK-12 content pertaining to the subjects and topics they are interested in. The explore section has two major components:

1. Interesting Reads: This section provides students a recommendation of the CK-12 content related to the question or topic of interest.
2. Unanswered Questions: This section provides users with exploring questions the user is interested in answering.

Need help with an assessment? Get help from your friends today! https://apps.facebook.com/studyhelp/


“Was this helpful? Click like and then give feedback!”

As was discussed in a previous post, we now offer our content in multiple-modalities at CK-12. We are still very excited about this feature, but we also realize that it still needs some improvements. Most importantly, we realized we needed to add the capability to get your feedback. This is where YOU come in! We think our content is great, but what is truly important is what you guys think! So now on each of our modalities we offer the ability to provide ratings and reviews for our content.Not only can you go and give us feedback on how you think the concept helped you, but you can also see other student and teacher reviews.

We launched this new capability less than a week ago and we already have close to 500 reviews! 81% of our readers have liked our content! The constructive feedback is essential to improving our concepts, so now you realize how essential you are to us and we look forward to hearing from you!







Malala Yousafzai, We Are With You!

Malala Yousafzai is a fourteen-year-old Pakistani girl.  In 2009, the Taliban banned girls in her region from attending school.  Malala expressed how the ban affected her and her classmates in a blog, but she wrote under a pseudonym because she recognized the danger this candid writing posed on her life.  In her blog, Malala expressed her fear of going to school, yet she continued to go because of her commitment to educational equality.


On Tuesday afternoon, Taliban militants shot Malala in the head.  Upon the the Pakistani President’s request, Malala will be flown out of Pakistan to get the care she needs to be saved.  As Mirza Waheed, the former editor of Urdu Website of BBC World service, states, “She was just the girl who wanted to go to school.”

Malala was a courageous young girl who was willing to risk her life for a cause she believed in.  The CK-12 Team believes in this cause and we hope you do too. If you would like to provide your support, please donate to Global Giving’s project to educate 1000 Pakistani girls.

Our heart goes out to you, Malala.  You are a hero.

Multi-Modality Learning: More Resourceful Than Ever!

Beginning this month, we launched our new, multi-modality platform. I am very excited about this release, because I believe this type of innovative learning is extremely beneficial to students and teachers alike. New technologies create unique ways to enhance learning, and at CK-12, we take advantage of this opportunity by providing diverse modes of learning. Each modality can be defined as “a different way to learn or explore.”

We don’t subscribe to a single “best” learning method at CK-12, but we embrace rapid experimentation in regard to teaching and learning methods. Hence, the aim of multi-modality learning is to cater to every unique teaching and learning style, making it as interactive and adaptive as possible.Examples of multi-modality include: textual descriptions, video lectures, multimedia simulations, interactive exploration models, quizzes/exams and question banks, maps of related concepts, and more.

A New Vision: Innovate and Invigorate

I have been absent from writing blogs recently, because we have been making some exciting changes to our website.  CK-12 now presents an entirely new educational platform that is concept based.  Learning evolves from a knowledge base, and this initial point of reference affects all of our future learning. As this knowledge base is enriched through education, more complex and creative ideas can follow.  Adhering to this basic principle, our online textbooks have been broken down into smaller pieces of content where each subject is explained in more depth and each concept has been enriched to include multiple modalities.

The traditional school model of “fixed time, variable learning” needs to be adjusted to focus on a new concept that brings “maximum capability learning.” Rapid iteration reinforces the learning process, and our revised platform encourages innovation, creativity and flexibility. This provides a more daring and meaningful education for the student.

Our mission at CK-12 is to encourage innovation and to enhance learning throughout the world. In order to accomplish this, our goal is to provide universal access to high-quality educational materials through a powerful, open, technological research tool to students (with disparate levels of competency and different learning styles) and teachers, irrespective of educational, financial or geographical circumstances.

Please stay tuned for more exciting things to come with CK-12!

To be commercial or not is the question?

There has been growing debate over whether OER should use commercial licensing.If this is an issue you feel passionate about, please check out the online debate being led by UNESCO/OER Foundation “Should OER Favour Commercial Use?” http://www.wsis-community.org/pg/debates/group:14358/phase/251476/252289.At CK-12, we believe strongly that licensing should be a choice, not a mandate.We believe that the choice should represent a true spirit of openness for both the users and as well as those providers who take the time and consideration to share their expertise with all.

Here is my invited reponse in this debate: Continue reading…

OER Presentation Dr. Louise Waters, Leadership Public Schools

This particular blog entry I am using a different format. I will share verbatim the presentation of Dr. Louise Waters at the Hewlett Foundations OER conference. It speaks to what I cannot seem to say as well as she says.

Open Source Educational Resources
Using the Power of Open-Source Resources to Transform Urban High Schools
By Louise Bay Waters, Superintendent & CEO Leadership Public Schools

A Presentation for the 3/30/11 Hewlett Foundation OER Conference Continue reading…

“Oh yeah, that’s right!”

Do you ever stop to wonder why we need someone to prove to us something that we innately know to be true?

We tend not to believe certain facts until and unless someone with credentials proves to us that they represent a truth. The proof comes from spending years of their life deciphering the concepts, followed by research papers, book/s on the topic, and that’s when we can safely say “Oh yeah, that’s right. Continue reading…