Recently, the U.S. Department of Education announced a national effort encouraging school districts to #GoOpen by taking advantage of free, high quality, openly licensed educational resources (OER). While OER is making headlines (search #GoOpen on Twitter) and is becoming a viable alternative to textbooks for school districts across the country, the foundation for OER began in 1994 and has been growing ever since.
In Burlington, we’ve been supporting teachers with the transition to OER since 2011. Soon after Burlington High School moved to a 1:1 learning program, the BPS EdTech Team created the Massachusetts Digital Publication Collaborative. The collaborative held annual events to provide educators with the time and support to curate and organize OER resources. Former BPS EdTech Team member, Andy Marcinek helped lead the initial #MADPC program and is now the first Open Education Advisor for the U.S. Department of Education. Andy will support districts nationwide developing OER driven courses.
Moving into year five of our 1:1 learning program at Burlington High School, the BPS EdTech Team continues to advocate for the transition from static, outdated textbooks, to the creation of high quality curated digital content. We realize the benefits, both financial and from a pedagogical stand point of “going open” and plan to curate OER resources with teachers of all grade levels and content areas over the next few years.
Benefits of Open Educational Resources
The benefits of OER are tremendous for school districts, teachers, and students. At a district level, thousands of dollars are saved when schools move away from purchasing textbooks. This allows funds to be allocated for digital learning initiatives, professional development, infrastructure, and more. For a classroom teacher, OER allow the curriculum to stay current, flexible, and customizable. Teachers have greater opportunities to bring creativity and innovation into the classroom when they understand how powerful it can be to curate and create their own digital content versus relying on a pre-packaged, one-size-fits-all textbook. For students, OER provide access to rich academic content regardless of their school’s size, course offerings, and location. With support from Amazon, ASCD, Edmodo, Creative Commons and others, OER in K-12 education is clearly a great path for educators.
But how does a teacher begin the transition from the textbook to open source material? Stay connected with this site and the BPS EdTech Team for details and ideas about where to start. BPS EdTech Team member, Jenn Scheffer will have an upcoming post about Better Lesson. Jenn will also be highlighting some other great OER options here and on the BHS HelpDesk site.
From a 2013 #MADPC Post:
Warning. Simply purchasing powerful technology tools is not enough.
It’s time to work together and build our digital curriculum. It’s time to forget about educational content curation being a corporate activity. It’s time to take over the production of the materials that we use to teach. It’s time to collaborate and share across districts and communities.
It’s time to revisit each curriculum. In some cases it’s time to simply integrate new digital resources and materials. In other cases it’s time to completely start over.
It’s NOT time to simply recreate your current curriculum in digital format. It’s NOT time to take your old documents and simply make PDF versions. It’s NOT time to take the easy way out of the curation process.
Four years ago we created the Massachusetts Digital Publication Collaborative because we wanted to provide educators with a starting point. MADPC helps educators learn about the critical skills needed in digital content curation, production, and distribution. When we started MADPC many Massachusetts schools were just starting to consider 1:1 environments. We realized that the biggest challenge we would face is the fact that we often complete the curriculum development process in isolation. There is no longer time for isolation.
This process takes commitment. There is no magic formula. We must help each other learn about the resources available to us and how best to use them. We must support the technology related skills needed to complete the work. We must provide opportunities to share and collaborate. We must build a network of curating educators.
Curate. Collaborate. Create.