Friday, December 3, 2010

Educators Can Save Time When They Stop Reinventing the Wheel with OER

Since my early days of teaching I always wondered why hundreds of thousands of teachers across the globe were working in isolation to deliver the same classes to their students. If teachers everywhere were teaching English 1, World History, Algebra 1, Poetry, etc., why were they all writing their own lessons, searching for their own resources and materials? Hasn’t this all been done thousands of times before? The answer is yes, it has, and requiring teachers to waste their time writing lesson plans that already exist and search for resources that have already been found numerous times before is a colossal waste of time. Furthermore, if teachers were writing all these lesson plans and compiling resources, why on earth were we wasting countless dollars on dry, dull, and painfully BORING textbooks? It made no sense!

As I entered into the world of teaching I found something very disturbing and that was that many teachers preferred doing business in isolation, behind closed doors. Furthermore, I discovered that many teachers were very proprietary and did not believe in sharing their resources. While they may present to others about the work they had done, they were often loathe to turn over materials that others could reproduce with the sentiment that they didn’t want others taking credit for their work. This made no sense to me. Aren’t we all working together to provide the best materials, resources, and experiences for our students? Fortunately as the internet and social media have gained favor with innovative educators, there is much more sharing going on, but not to the extent that I had envisioned where central hubs would exist where materials are shared and used by any educator or learner.

Until now…

If you haven’t heard, there is a new movement in education and it’s called OER which stands for Open Educational Resources. I recently learned about this movement at iNacol’s Virtual School Symposium. This coordinated movement is backed by huge funders like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and they’re all moving toward a common goal of providing quality courses for learning for free. “At the heart of the movement toward Open Educational Resources is the simple and powerful idea that the world’s knowledge is a public good and that technology in general, and the Worldwide Web in particular, provide an extraordinary opportunity for everyone to share, use, and re-use knowledge.” – The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

There are three categories that the resources are currently broken into.

1) Courses, Courseware, Content Resources

· Carnegie Mellon University (OLI)
· Curriki
· HippoCampus (NROC)
· OER Commons
· Open CourseWare Consortium
· Rice Connexions
· Free Online Course Materials | MIT OpenCourseWare
· 300 Free Online Courses from Top Universities

2) Open Textbook Projects
· CC Consortium for OER
· CK12
· Flatworld Knowledge

3) Repositories, Referatories, and Specialized Collections
· ActionBioscience.Org
· Curriculum Pathways (SAS)
· Digital Library for Earth Science Ed
· GEM Referatory
· ide@s (U of Wisconsin System)
· Khan Academy
· Math Archives
· Mathalicious
· Merlot
· National Science Digital Library
· The PT3 Pathways Project
· Wisc-Online
· Top 10 Sites for Educational Resources by David Kapuler

If you are interesting in incorporating OER into the work you do, here are some resources to get started.
· Connexions online course about working with OER
· UNESCO OER Toolkit
· WikiEducator OER Handbook for Educators

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