Open Education?

I am a strong believer in sharing. I am not just saying this because it is the topic of the week. I have truly ALWAYS shared my resources.

New teacher who needs some resources? I got you! I need an intern gift? Give me a USB and take everything. Sharing has always been my love language.

Some teachers, however, are very apprehensive about this. I’ve never fully figured out why, but I hear a lot of concern about copyright laws or a deep connection to the metaphorical blood, sweat, and tears that go into creating resources. Or sometimes teachers just feel it is a right of passage for new teachers to struggle, which just seems downright wrong.

When it comes to creating my own resources, I have never, I mean not once, created something from scratch. And I would, with almost 100 percent confidence, bet no teacher has. It is a simple concept – everything is a remix:

My best lessons came from other resources. And why wouldn’t I want to share these lessons with my fellow colleagues to hopefully allow them to use them in their own space when they worked so well in mine?

This is where the concept of open education resources (OER) comes into play.

According to Open Source, Open education is a philosophy about the way people should produce, share, and build on knowledge. Proponents of open education believe everyone in the world should have access to high-quality educational experiences and resources, and they work to eliminate barriers to this goal. Such barriers might include high monetary costs, outdated or obsolete materials, and legal mechanisms that prevent collaboration among scholars and educators.

Prior to this course, I had never heard of open education, but man am I on board! As I explored this concept more, I realized that I have actively been utilizing open education resources for the majority of my career through sources like TedEd and Kahn Academy, but as I explored I learned about many more:

  1. Complexly: “The world is not simple. And that can seem like a burden sometimes. The reality is, the human species will never fully understand itself or its universe, let alone any individual. But instead of seeing that as a failing, we’d like to suggest that the process is as powerful as the outcome. The more we understand, the better we get at being humans, and that is one of the only worthwhile goals out there. We are a group of people who make stuff to help that process along and reflect our own excitement and enthusiasm for understanding and imagining things complexly.”
  2. Project Muse: “Project MUSE offers open access (OA) books, journals, and digital humanities works from several distinguished university presses, scholarly societies, and independent not-for-profit academic publishers. Through our open access hosting programs, we are able to offer publishers a platform for their OA content which ensures visibility, discoverability, and wide dissemination. These materials are freely available to libraries and users around the world.”
  3. Project Gutenburg: “Project Gutenberg is an online library of free eBooks.Project Gutenberg was the first provider of free electronic books, or eBooks. Michael Hart, founder of Project Gutenberg, invented eBooks in 1971 and his memory continues to inspire the creation of eBooks and relate content today.”
  4. Library of Congress: “This page features items from the Library’s digital collections that are free to use and reuse. The Library believes that this content is either in the public domain, has no known copyright, or has been cleared by the copyright owner for public use.”

Of these resources, the one that I found the most interesting was Complexly. I am a HUGE John and Hank Green fan. I mean I’ve got a signed Crash Course poster in my classroom? Clearly, I love them. So I was a bit shocked to find out that they had an entire website, and organization, dedicated to OER. On the Complexly website, you can find a video range of shows that are produced by the organization to help others gain knowledge. Of course, this included the more well-known Crash Course videos and the Anthropocene Reviewed podcast, but I was shocked (again, huge fan here) to find that there were a number of other resources under the same umbrella as Crash Course and the Anthropocene Reviewed:

  1. Life’s Little Lies: “The things you should know about how the world works, but probably don’t. With a mix of life hacks, consumer psychology, and economics, hosts Hank Green and Michelle Barboza-Ramirez share information on how to navigate life decisions whether they are big — like buying a house — or small — like ordering dinner.” (Complexly)
  2. Origin of Everything: “Origin of Everything is a show about under told history and culture hosted by Danielle Bainbridge that challenges our everyday assumptions.” (Complexly)

And honestly, the list quite literally goes on, but this feels like the natural stopping point. I had no doubt that I would be a strong proponent of OER, but after further exploration, I feel like this has become my new life mantra: OER! OER! OER!

And really, the benefits are endless. According to the University of Adelaide:

  1. Immediate and continued access: Students can access OERs anywhere in the world, at any time. This includes both before courses start and after courses end.
  2. Enhancement of regular course content: You can use different types of materials, including multimedia, to help engage students. OERs can be useful supplementary material when students need background information or are interested in extending their knowledge.
  3. Adaptability: You can add, remove and edit content to suit your needs. If you’re using an OER textbook you don’t need to worry about using the whole book to justify the cost to students.
  4. Increased diversity: You can use a selection of resources to include a wide range of perspectives, such as Indigenous voices, and/or edit resources to ensure language is inclusive and relevant to your students.
  5. Continual improvement: OERs can be quickly improved through direct editing or via feedback and any mistakes can be corrected without needing to wait for a new edition or going through a lengthy review process.

Now this is something everyone should get behind! Parents, educators and administrators included.

Using content/topics discussed in class this week, write a post around the topic of open education and the culture of sharing. I’d recommend watching one or more of the videos shared above to include in your post. You may want to consider how these topics relate to your own personal/professional context.