By the time textbooks go through the vetting process and are adopted by school districts, the material too often is either so stale or expurgated that it turns off students. That’s why free materials available online in the public domain called “open educational resources” have the potential to engage them (“Schools Shift to Free Public Domain Curricula,” The Wall Street Journal, Mar. 31). OER allow teachers to pick, choose and mix what is posted.
Since the material available can be updated, it appeals to their need for timeliness. For teachers concerned with aligning their instruction with changing testing demands, OER can be invaluable. What’s more, the money ordinarily spent on textbooks can be used to buy laptops and tablets, which young people feel comfortable using.
I think textbooks will always have a place in learning, but we are living in a new era. Young people today are far more sophisticated than previous generations because of the existence of the internet. They are constantly exposed to images and information that were unavailable decades ago. In the hands of talented teachers, OER can mean the difference between apathetic and engaged students. I realize that the medium is not the message, but if it helps teachers be more effective I enthusiastically support it.
The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner’s Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.