Dr. Keith Osburn at The Learning Counsel’s 2018 National Gathering: The Semantics of Learning in a Technological World

Charles Sosnik, Learning Counsel Editor

Dr. Keith Osburn is the Assistant Superintendent, Georgia Virtual Learning at the Georgia Department of Education. He was a featured presenter at the Learning Counsel’s 2018 National Gathering in Houston.

Osburn thinks a lot about teachers and how to make their jobs more effective. His challenge in Georgia is to increase digital efficacy for his districts, moving learning forward while at the same time maintaining complete autonomy for those districts.

In today’s world, an educator’s attention is at a premium. Like the rest of us, they’re bombarded by thousands of messages a day, and act as a sounding board for teachers, students, parents and administrators. In addition, teachers are asked to take on an increasing collection of responsibilities in and outside the classroom. To a teacher, technology can be both the problem and the solution.

With that in mind, our challenge today is to harness technology to cultivate higher quality attention and deliver a more impactful result.

As administrators and technology professionals, we should be asking ourselves if we are creating an environment where teachers are doing the best job possible to utilize their instructional time.

“We expect teachers to do everything under the sun,” said Osburn.

“School leaders spend 90 percent of their time thinking about the here and now and 10 percent thinking about the future. IT spends 10 percent of their time thinking about the here and now and 90 percent about the future. School teachers are just trying to get through the day.”

Osburn cautions that changes need to be made if we are to meet the current and future needs of our learners. “What got us here will not get us there. Simply doing more of the same thing will not get us where we need to go,” he said.

“What can we do for teachers? We need to have some type of architecture, some type of schema that we can synthesize some type of plan from.”

How do we know that our children have learned? How can we synthesize the events of learning? Osburn says in order to do that, we need a way to take all the data that we have and put it together and tag it. If we are going to measure learning, we should measure that based on academic standards. We need standards which allow all our disparate systems to talk to each other. We then need some type of standards-based reporting and put that together in such a way that it is portable for all learners.

According to Osburn, “There are three learning events that need to be captured – either a student learns or he doesn’t, either a teacher teaches of she doesn’t, or there is an environmental issue.”

Osburn says we need to build a comprehensive learner record, an information-rich micro credential that can transcend the institution and has three pieces of information inside: progress, process and evidence.

As the Internet and its use evolves, educators and others consume and share information in different ways. According to experts, we are in the period known as Web 3.0, also called the Semantic Web. Our classrooms should evolve in the same way. To ensure that learners can take advantage of the opportunities technology presents, we should think in terms of the Semantic Classroom.

Enabling the Semantic Classroom:

  • Embrace Interoperability. Demand that your vendors adhere to open technical standards such as those proposed by organizations like IMS Global, IEEE, Ed-Fi. Shift away from paper when applicable.
  • Mandate that your learning standards/competencies are available in a machine learning format. Georgia, Texas, North Carolina and South Carolina are using the CASE format.
  • Does your state provide content? Using OER? Tag it and make it searchable using standards. LTI and LTI Resource search. Assessment? Use QTI.
  • Switch to Competence/Standards based reporting.
  • Identify who in your district is the “Chief Technical Standards Officer.”
  • Promote all standards bodies together through entities like Project Unicorn, IEEE, IMS Global and Ed-Fi.
  • Align internal date definitions to CEDS standard definitions.
  • Align content and learning outcomes to free 50-State Case Registry GUIDs.

According to Osburn, it is not the responsibility of the teacher to align content to standards. Everything that can be done by IT and administration will help teachers maximize instructional time, and in turn create more learning opportunity for our children. That should be the focus of our teachers – learners, not technology. Afterall, the best technology is the technology you don’t even know is there.

Watch the video of his talk below.


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