It’s time for education to move past standardization and textbooks.

Several conversations lately have made me ponder the importance of community understanding and support for various new initiatives like open learning and OER adoption.

In particular, I was at a meeting with the mayor and city manager of a local community last week. The topic of the meeting wasn’t really education per se, but the conversation quickly moved there as we talked about various challenges the community faces. I was surprised to hear one participant, someone who I view as a progressive and forward thinking person, rail against the lack of textbooks in the schools. This brought agreement from the group and led to a litany of complaints about Common Core and other practices in the local schools.

As a progressive educator, I was shocked — I believe that the use of textbooks and the rigid adherence to pacing and standardization is one of the most troubling aspects of education today. To me, not having textbooks and instead empowering our teachers and students to a greater degree would be one of the best things we could do to advance learning.

Clearly, though, this is not the view of many community members. As we’ve seen with other progressive trends, there is often a negative reaction to methods that are different from what was “good enough for us” when we were in school.

This relates to OER as well. OER, and even more so open learning, look different in the classroom. There are different assumptions, different methodologies, and different intended outcomes. If we don’t acknowledge those, and make sure that the community, as well as teachers and students, understand and support that, we are fighting an uphill battle.

If we are looking at OER as merely a lower cost way to provide the static textbooks that are otherwise in use, we’re missing the real benefit. The opportunity of OER and open learning is to jump forward; to move past textbooks, worksheets, and standardized curriculum; to progress to a place where there is more and deeper learning for everyone. But to get there, we need consensus on that.

“We need textbooks!”
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