Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Evolution of OER in K12

In his post last week, Patrick Larkin usefully moved the collective understanding of OER ahead. Sharing his district's lack of satisfaction with their initial attempts with OER is a great service to other districts who will be using OER in the days and years to come. Not getting it right the first time is not failure; it's learning.

 Larkin correctly noted that most teachers haven't been trained to create or curate curriculum, but he didn't talk about the other necessary elements of successful OER implementations. There was no mention of any ongoing support being provided to teachers throughout the year; no talk about a common learning management system, which is critical for successful implementation;  a clear pedagogical objective wasn't mentioned for either students or teachers; and the roles of the district IT department, Curriculum and Instruction and administration didn't appear to be well articulated.

He also didn't talk about money. OER is free, but teacher time needs to be compensated.  Professional support for the crucial work of designing new student-centered learning environments that effectively incorporate technology, are aligned to some set of standards, and allow for open-walled learning will cost money. But, that's money spent on strengthening capacity in the district instead of sending it to text-book publishers.

OER used with a well supported LMS will naturally provide greater opportunities for learning that is Personalized, Relevant, and Contextualized. Student agency and social learning are also essential components of the learning environment when students, teachers, parents and the larger community all have a stake in re-making the content to provide maximum local benefit.

Larkin put in a plug for  Open Up Resources (formerly the K-12 OER Collaborative), a new, nonprofit provider of openly-licensed full course curricula which will be published under the most flexible license - CC BY. Open Up Resources is a good option for middle school math.

If you're interested in any of the elementary content areas, I'll invite you to attend the workshop Seth Leavitt and I will be leading at this year's TIES 2016 Conference on Sunday, December 11. I'll be doing a regular break-out hands-on session on Monday, too. We will examine digital online curriculum as both a student and a teacher. We'll do an overview of the digital content available to schools by examining Open Educational Resources (OER), school district self-created content, subscription, and non-subscription commercial content. Techniques to evaluate digital curriculum will be next, and you will take away a workable evaluation process for your classroom. Examples of digital content implementation will be explored, and in groups you will create checklists and implementation plans for each of your schools along with action plans.

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