As we continue to discuss a transition to free digital resources in order to escape our reliance on traditional textbooks, I find myself confused with what we really mean by Open Educational Resources (OER). While some of what follows may sound a bit sarcastic, I assure you that I am sincerely wondering what the right pathway is for schools to make the needed shift to OER. Then again, this is most likely where my problem begins. I am looking for one right pathway when in fact that are certainly many options. Thankfully, there a number of third-party companies out there willing to sell us their tools to help schools and school districts on this journey.
In fact, these companies have a number of other schools willing to sing their praises about how they helped schools make the transition to OER. But I lose focus listening to these salespeople as I think back to my initial understanding of OER, the movement described by Wikipedia in the following terms:
Open educational resources (OER) are freely accessible, openly licensed documents and media that are useful for teaching, learning, and assessing as well as for research purposes.
This confusion increases as I hear of schools who have started this transition to OER by allocating large amounts of money to third-party tools to assist with this work. I become more confused when I see textbook companies collaborating with some of these third-party tools.
Is this just another way to continue our reliance on these third-party resources? Or is this a good thing that will allow schools to expedite the acquisition of high-quality resources? Isn’t our money better spent to support our teachers in the curation and creation process? Will the quick fix of paying for third-party resources to help us with this work speed up our capacity to do this work? Will we ever be able to do it on our own? Is the possibility of schools and school districts getting together to do this work together unrealistic?
It clear that there are a lot more questions than answers on the topic of OER. Maybe we need to pay for one of these third-party tools to help us make this transition. However, I am pretty sure that when we start to allocate funds to find freely accessible resources then they are not really free resources.
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