March 10 marks the end of Open EducationWeek, which was launched to draw attention to open educationalresources. Those are essentially educator-created curricular and other classroom materials that are made available online for any educator to use. The goal is to share the best ideas, saving teachers and instructional leaders time and allowing them to tap into the creativity of colleagues around the country.
Despite educator concerns about the quality of open educational resources, the U.S. Department of Education sought to encourage OER through a #GoOpen initiative, through which states and districts around the country committed to supporting the use of open sources in schools.
While the initiative sunseted in 2022, the Office of Educational Technology passed the baton to the ISKME, formerly the Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education, a non-profit organization that already had a partnership with #GoOpen. ISKME has sought to transition it to a community-driven model for fostering collaboration on OER.
Education Week connected over email with Amee Evans Godwin, a senior advisor at ISKME who now leads the the #GoOpen National Network, to talk about the benefits of OER and get some tips for educators looking to start or deepen their work with OER.
Q: About a decade ago, the idea of open educational resources was a relatively new concept. How common are they now? What’s the big benefit for teachers and kids?
A: Through the #GoOpen National Network, we’ve seen that OER are really catching on with educators around the country. One big reason for that is educators want flexibility, and OER allow them to freely and easily adapt materials to engage their students and better meet their students’ learning needs. We’re also seeing increasing interest in OER at the state and district levels, especially as more states invest in platforms that enable collaboration and professional learning on OER. For districts, OER are appealing because they free up funds that would have been spent on textbooks, so that money can be put toward other areas, like teacher professional development.
Q: What would you say to educators who might want to start using OER—or share they own resources—but might not know where to start?
A: A great—and easy—first step is just exploring the OER that are out there. There are so many! The digital public library OER Commons has a huge range of openly licensed resources, and you can search by subject, school level, and standard alignment.
I also recommend tapping into peers who have used OER and can offer tips. Within the #GoOpen National Network, we’ve seen wonderfully productive peer-to-peer relationships sprout up—for example, between educators in Michigan and the U.S. Virgin Islands—and those peer relationships can be powerful for finding high-quality resources and sharing strategies and ideas.
Q: What would you say to districts or educators who want to keep resources they’ve spent time and effort developing proprietary—or make money off them using sites like Teachers Pay Teachers—rather than share them with others with OER?
A: Teachers are immensely creative, and they should absolutely get credit for their work and ingenuity. Some districts are recognizing that by compensating educators for the time, effort, and expertise they put into creating or adapting OER. It’s also worth noting that OER can include attributions so that creators can get credit for their work. Plus, many teachers who engage with OER tell us that the biggest reward is getting a greater sense of ownership and knowledge of their curriculum.
In a larger sense, though, OER revolve around the idea that everyone deserves access to high-quality learning—and that when it comes down to it, knowledge is meant to be shared.