Next week March 5-10 is the first annual Open Education Week!
Open Education Week is a global event that seeks to raise awareness about the benefits of free and open sharing in education, especially Open Educational Resources (OER). OER are materials, tools, and media used for teaching and learning that are licensed for anyone to use, modify, and redistribute.
The event will take place online and in different locations around the world, with opportunities to participate in webinars, discussions and live events. Participation is free and open to all. Visit www.openeducationweek.org for more information.
How can you participate?
- Participate in a webinar. Here’s a schedule of them. (Times are GMT.)
- Use some of the great OER for K-12.
- Open license some of your own content.
- Tell someone else about OER. Tweet, post, and spread the word!
Sharing is good!
There is a lot of talk right now about concerns regarding quality and OER. Quality is obviously of foremost concern with regard to educational materials; however, I think that those who are castigating OER on the basis of quality concerns are confusing OER with mass collaboration.
Mass collaboration, of course, is a process by which a task is undertaken by a collective of many (who may be anonymous or not, who may have expertise or not, who may be accurate or not, etc.). This is the development process that has created Wikipedia and some other open resources. I am not going to debate the merits of mass collaboration here (but those who know me might know that I am generally a fan of mass collaboration).
It is mass collaboration that breeds, in many, grave concerns about quality.
However, OERs are not all created by a process of mass collaboration. In fact, many high quality OERs, FreeReading, NROC courses, CK12′s Flexbooks, and most OpenCourseWare resources among them, are not created through mass collaboration, but through a relatively conventional development process that involves a basis in research, writing by qualified experts, and vetting by panels of subject-area authorities.
In short, they are created through a process that does not differ much from that of traditional educational resources, such as printed textbooks.
Appropriately, many state initiatives advancing open textbooks for K-12, such as in Texas, require a quality review and adoption process similar to that of other textbooks. Again, I’ll refrain from debating the merits and fine points of state department of education adoption policies (as much as I’d like to…another time perhaps).
What I would request is this: If you are rejecting the value of open educational resources on the basis of quality, examine the development and quality assurance process involved to see how it measures up. The benefits of OERs to our teachers and students are too great to do otherwise.
Newsweek ran an article this week about online courses. This article provided some publicity for the OER movement…except that the article really wasn’t about OER.
The article said, in part, “In addition to YouTube EDU, Web sites like iTunes U, TED, and Academic Earth allow millions of people to download lectures by some of the world’s top experts—for free. Known as open educational resources—or OER—the movement is turning education into a form of mass entertainment.” Unfortunately, only one of those sites listed, TED, is published under an open license (and with TED’s no-derivatives license, some would refute that).
While the article does talk about MIT’s OpenCourseWare and a couple other open projects, it is really about free online courses. Nowhere does the article define OER or talk about what open is and how open is different from free and digital.
This is sloppy journalism, which seems to abound in our sound-bite-driven, superficial media, but it is also indicative of a bigger problem.
The OER movement needs a more cohesive messaging approach. The benefits and needs for OER and what it can bring to education are overwhelming; we need people to understand that.