Education Opinion

Researchers and Educators Gather at the Hewlett Open Educational Resources Grantee Meeting

By Justin Reich — April 10, 2012 2 min read
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I’m spending this week at the annual Hewlett Open Educational Resources Grantee Meeting, where a group of developers, educators, and researchers are gathering to discuss the advancement of Open Educational Resources or OER. Hewlett defines OER as “high-quality, openly licensed, online educational materials that offer an extraordinary opportunity for people everywhere to share, use, and reuse knowledge.” Quite a bit fits under that broad definition, from Khan Academy videos to CK-12’s free textbooks. There are schools, like the Open High School of Utah or Peer to Peer University that have entirely open curriculum, aggregators like the OER commons and National Science Digital library, and courses like those found on MIT’s OpenCourseWare.

It’s all part of a really wonderful experiment in democratic education: what happens educators and curriculum designers have access to free and open content that rivals proprietary material (like textbooks) in quality?There are some easy benefits to imagine, like reduced costs, but the greater hope is that by putting a vast library of resources at the fingertips of teachers and students, we can empower teachers and students as curriculum designers and architects of learning.

I’ve attended this meeting for the last four years as project manager of the Distributed Collaborative Learning Communities project, a Hewlett funded initiative that examines the use of wikis in K-12 settings. This year the meeting is being hosted at the Berkman Center, and as a fellow I had the chance to offer some input into the agenda and design of the meeting. One of my major suggestions was to have more practicing educators in the group to bring researchers and developers insights from the field and to challenge our perspective. Having some teachers in the room provides a valuable reality check when you spend a lot of your day talking about licensing options and interoperability standards.

I’m thrilled that Vicki Davis of Flat Classroom fame and Jonathan Bergmann, Flipped Classroom evangelist, will be able to join us. Both are talented educators with powerful voices among and for educators. Lots of OER work is about connecting communities, and Vicki Davis is the perfect person to speak on those issues. Bergmann’s work with the Flipped Classroom is perhaps an even better fit; in some ways I see the Flipped Movement as the first pedagogical movement to really leverage the possibilities that emerge when every teacher and student has the Library of Alexandria in their pocket.

My other suggestion for the meeting was to have a greater focus on educational equity, which the organizers addressed by asking me to give a talk about issues of educational equity. (Raise your hand, and that’s what happens...) I’ll blog more about that on Wednesday.

The agenda for the meeting is here, and I’m sure a lot will be tweeted under #oer12hf in the next few days. My guess is that many folks won’t necessarily recognize a lot of the names on the participant list, but these are people who are developing the foundations of open education infrastructure—the delivery of free and open resources to educators—for the generation ahead.

I’ll post more from the conference as I attend sessions over the next few days. Stay tuned for more posts, and follow me on twitter at @bjfr for live commentary from the meeting.

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