Educators currently have an overdue assignment. We are behind as a nation with the move to Open Educational Resources (OER). The movement to OER actually began in 2009 and expanded in 2011 but the majority of districts in our country have made little movement towards the goal of leaving behind the overpriced, static, and outdated materials created by unbelievably profitable and stubborn publishing companies.
In Burlington we were actually at the forefront of the OER movement when we led the first regional OER event in 2011 called the Massachusetts Digital Publication Collaborative (MADPC). The event was directed by Burlington Superintendent Dr. Eric Conti, former Bedford Superintendent Dr. Maureen LaCroix, and former Andover Superintendent Dr. Marinel McGrath. Our outstanding Burlington team at the time included myself, Andy Marcinek, Patrick Larkin, Bob Cunha, Tim Calvin, and Dan Callahan. We helped develop and lead a productive three day conference that would become an annual event for the next several years. After each event participants left with information about OER, resources, technical training, and knowledge on how to curate, organize, remix, and share content. Teachers would leave each event with units, lessons, and assessments that were open and ready to implement.
The move to OER does have it’s challenges…What teachers often ask me about OER:
– What’s OER?
– How will I have the time for this?
– How do we know if the resources are vetted?
It is now our challenge to finish the work started at the first MADPC event. We must find the time and resources to support this important work in Burlington and throughout the country. In Burlington we hope to set a goal for the year 2020 when we would like to see all of our resources for middle and high school be open. This challenge will take the training and implementation of new curation leaders to help lead the movement and support teachers. The work will also take the unyielding support of administration and department heads along with perhaps the most critical ingredient of all…time. Time is incredibly difficult to find for our teachers due to the tremendous work that they already put in on a daily basis but it must be our priority to support this movement and help find that time. Teachers often feel that they don’t always have the chance to create their own resources or curate materials for their classrooms. So it’s completely understandable that teachers often find it easier to simply go with the previously created work from the big publication houses. Again that’s understandable but it’s simply no longer the best way to teach our children. We must help our educators find the time and potentially provide the compensation they need to do the work.
Ultimately though the challenges include more than the need for time. We must also convince our nation’s educators of the importance of this work. We must show our teachers how remixing open resources to meet the needs of their classrooms and individual students can create vastly improved learning experiences. We must help our teachers understand that most open resources have value and are of high quality. This is also important for our teachers who often trust the vetted resources from paid content. Teachers must be provided with the support to curate and create open resources so that we no longer rely on the publication companies that have drained our school systems for too many years.