Saturday, May 14, 2016

3 Reasons Scaling Up Open Educational Resources Should be the Next Step


Open Educational Resources (OER) have been with us for over 20 years. The world wide web revolution made them accessible to anyone with an internet connection. The move in schools to 1 to 1 devices is making it possible now to rely on OER to replace curriculum companies. I believe that this is the time to scale the use of OER and move our schools boldly forward. I believe that the movement has matured enough to move from the periphery to the center of the education process. Here I outline the three most important reasons to do so.
  1.  It is democratic. Well vetted OER breaks the hold that publishers and some states (Texas, CA, NY) have had over the creation of materials. The use of OER allows districts, and potentially even teachers to exercise their professional judgment in curating the curriculum without having to create everything themselves. This will help build the professional capacity of educators to make decisions that fit the students and communities they are serving. The challenge here is tackling the potential for dealing with overabundance and the paradox of too much choice. To make this reality, a vetting process should be added to OER, so teachers have a sense of quality. Such curation is visible on sites such as OERCommons and ReadWriteThink.
  2. It is flexible. OER can be updated and corrected in real time without lengthy editing processes. In effect, we can use a Wikipedia-like process with super-editors who help maintain the integrity of the process. The value of OER is, therefore,  based on the quality of the original and the willingness of users to keep the resource updated and commented on. The use of crowdsourcing to determine the quality and maintain the "freshness" and accuracy of the information can be invaluable.
  3. It is (almost) free. Resources saved by not buying textbooks and teacher materials can be turned to making sure that schools have adequate technology infrastructure, adequate device distribution and most importantly- turn most of the savings into professional development that makes sure that teachers are well positioned to take advantage of the opportunity afforded by OER.
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