Saturday, August 27, 2016

For-Profit Involvement in K12 OER - Part 1

I wrote a series of blog posts in June  about For-Profit involvement in OER. That series was mainly focused on OER use in higher ed. It's time for another series about For-Proift Involvement in K12 OER. The same basic principles apply to OER in Higher Ed and in K12, but there are differences, too.

Here's what prompted this post: Yesterday, TJ Bliss tweeted a "question for #OER community: How do we encourage more teachers to share their resources openly?" Shortly thereafter, Kristina Peters tweeted "How can we flip the 80/20 so that 80 teachers share? How do we help Ts curate? #GoOpen" TJ works for the Hewlett Foundation, the org that gets lots of credit for promoting OER. Kristina heads up the #GoOpen initiative for the U.S Dept of Education. Both questions are great questions that deserve a lot of discussion by everyone who cares about education.

TJ's tweet included a link to an article on Education World about a report on a survey from the company, TES. The article is titled "Survey Finds Teachers Stall in Sharing OERs Online."  There's lots of problems with the article and its title. The title implies that teachers aren't sharing OERs online as much as they 'should.' There's nothing in the article to indicate whether the current rate of sharing OERs is, in fact, increasing or decreasing from previous years. The article doesn't even begin to examine why or how any of the 'facts' being reporting came to be 'facts.'

The article and the survey don't make any distinctions between kinds of OER. All OER are not created equal, nor should they be, so making statements about OER in general is not particularly useful to anyone. It is very important that everyone in education acquire more knowledge about the various types of OER, how they are developed, how they are archived and accessed, and most importantly, how they are used in a classroom.

Sweeping statements by companies that are purveyors of Open-washed material (Open-washed material is material that pretends to be OER but is really a commercial product), like TES, about OER are misleading and harmful to the widespread adoption of quality OER in K12.  I'm calling TES a purveyor of Open-washed material because they're placing an article supposedly about OER in Education World and including a link at the bottom of the article to the TES web page that prominently states "earn money by selling your resources" in the middle of the page. The links on that page then lead to lots of commercial products and some free material but not to much actual OER. I'm hoping that TJ and Kristina can point us to solid explanations about the difference between free resources and open resources, and how both of those are different from commercial products that might include 'open' in their name.

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