Some “What Ifs…” for Open Education & OER

A wonderful thing happened when I started at my new school last month. The Dean of Academics asked me to pull together a list of all of my “buckets” for us to discuss. She left the meaning of “buckets” open, which gave me the opportunity to interpret her request to mean (a) the areas of work/education I am passionate about, and (b) how my passions & strengths connect with the work I will do as the new Director for the Center of Innovation in Teaching & Learning at St. Mark’s.

The process of drawing up my buckets was invigorating. I’ll write more on the process and the list itself in future posts.

For this post, I want to focus on Bucket #2: Open Education. I believe that Open Education (see The Open Education Consortium’s site for a good definition of “Open Education”) and Open Educational Resources (or OER — see The Hewlett Foundation for the best definition) has the power to make “school” and learning better (and potentially, per Michael Fullan, “irresistibly engaging”) for everyone in the world. The mission of the Center is not only to nurture and celebrate innovative thinking, teaching, and learning at St. Mark’s, but also to connect with and learn from the broader, global education community as we do the work of innovation (not just talk about it) in order to transform learning for all.

Soon after I drafted my buckets, I saw this tweet from Andrew Marcinek: “PLN: Are you leveraging Open Educational Resources in your classroom or district? If so, get in touch with me asap!”

I replied right away and Andrew and I were able to connect by phone to talk Open Ed. Our discussion was interesting and I learned that I was one of the few educators to reply. This lack of response speaks volumes, I think, about the state of Open Education and OER in the K12 world. While the Open Education Movement in higher ed has made great progress over the last decade, OER and Open Education has not gained traction amongst K12 teachers and institutions.

Andrew and I discussed some of the whys behind the lack of a concerted movement towards “open” in K12 education. Our conversation left me imagining how we might reach a day where “Openness” is part of the everyday vocabulary and practice of K12 educators.

What if . . .

  • Finding OER was as easy and convenient as shopping on Amazon
  • Curating OER could be done one-handed via smartphone while sipping coffee before school starts
  • Sharing and talking about OER was as user-friendly & contagious as Twitter chats (shout out to #sunchat & #satchatoc!)
  • Seeing OER in action during learning activities could be easily found & rated like YouTube videos
  • Quality resources were created, adapted, reused and constantly vetted via a helpful rating system (e.g., the “likes” of Facebook or the stars on Goodreads)
  • Integrating OER was linked to pedagogy and practical examples of great teaching practices (e.g., BetterLesson’s Blended Master Teacher project)
  • One open amazing “hub” was created with the end users in mind (teachers and students), thereby making it easy for all of the above to happen [Please allow me this aside: it seems to me that vendors drive the end product too much, even with the US DOE’s Learning Registry — which no teachers I know have even heard of; this site tells Educators, “The Learning Registry is not intended to be your portal into the world of digital resources…”: So where’s our portal?!?]
  • All resources produced out of publicly funded education projects were licensed under Creative Commons (sign here to help this happen!)
  • Creative Commons became ubiquitous in student learning about copyright & foundational to a practice of sharing amongst learners, educators, schools, & their partners (public & private)
  • More communities followed the trail-blazing examples of Leicester City in the UK and The Digital Learning Department in Washington State’s Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction in the US, which model large-scale adoption and promotion of OER
  • All states (not just 12 — where is MA?) enthusiastically joined the K-12 OER Collaborative, worked together to create “comprehensive, high-quality, open educational resources,” and made them easily accessible to all learners everywhere
  • MOOCs became a way for students & schools to personalize learning, a vehicle for exploring approaches to blended teaching in K12 education, and a vehicle for teachers to share open coursework & learning objects
  • The mission of Blend Learning in K12 schools was premised on a philosophy of Openness (i.e., what if The Learning Accelerator & The Friday Institute’s Leadership in Blended Learning Program made that explicit in their model)
  • Professional learning opportunities on Open Education/OER were made more freely, widely available to teachers
  • A culture of “openness” worked symbiotically with the growing culture of connectedness that is so wonderfully illustrated by the powerful bloggers & tweeters out in the edusphere?

I could go on but I’ll stop here, since I am more interested in what others in the K12 realm (as well as our partners) have to say about Open Education and OER. Let’s tweet, blog, talk, meet, conference, and edcamp it up. If we are serious about equity, access, and transforming education, then we need to ramp up the movement for OER and Openness in K12 education.

Every student deserves access to great learning resources, opportunities, and teachers. This will happen when we have a world of OER that is “elegantly efficient and simple to use,” that models engaging, real-life applications, and that supports the process of making learning “irresistibly engaging (for students and for teachers)” (Michael Fullan, Stratosphere 4).


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