Educators Flex for Effectiveness

It is a new school year and I still find myself instinctively gearing up for the pace and rigor of starting a new year. Until a few years ago, my work was in California public schools, coordinating state-level student assessments, managing textbook adoptions and related professional learning, as well as building library and media services across K-12 schools and districts. My time in public education is precious to me and my experience working with teachers and students provides a primary filter through which I approach my current role as OER librarian at ISKME. Every task I take on continues to be filtered through the same lens I have always used: "How does this work support teachers to build engaging and empowering learning experiences for students?"

And yet, although I managed textbook adoptions, media subscriptions and licensing fees for many years, I was not convinced this approach to providing instructional resources served the needs of my teachers and students well. These resources were expensive, requiring an ongoing and substantial investment of limited district funds. And, although digital, these resources were static, still carrying proprietary licenses that limited their use, reuse and adaptation by teachers. Spending money on static resources limited access in the schools to other much-needed resources. In short, many of the traditional instructional materials I was managing provided little flexibility to teachers who were working to build effective learning environments.

I'm at ISKME because I am certain of the potential of open education and open educational resources (OER) to support teaching and learning in new ways. It is easy to see how OER are economically desirable, providing equitable access to quality educational resources for all. But, even more importantly, I am convinced that OER possess tremendous potential to increase educator effectiveness because they provide flexibility in resource and curriculum design to meet the needs of learners in all local contexts. And, I know this flexibility and focus on instructional design will result in enhanced student engagement, achievement and opportunity.

Right now, I’m particularly excited to see how OER are being used, remixed, and shared to build the inquiry-based, cross-disciplinary, deep learning experiences called for in the Common Core State Standards. In her blog "Dedicated to Detroit," my colleague Megan Simmons shares how inspired Detroit teachers are using design thinking and OER to build cross-disciplinary learning opportunities for students in their communities and schools. The work of these Detroit teachers is inspiring.

Another recent example of teachers remixing and adaptingMural Site OER to build powerful learning experiences is the Community Mural Project, undertaken by students and community members in Bozeman, MT, in the spring of 2012. Over the course of this project, students engaged in gathering local oral histories, community data gathering and information synthesis, design thinking and the creation of public art. This project was published in OER Commons using the Open Author tool, and then it was quickly adapted by teachers for several other classroom-community mural projects in California and Michigan.

We are seeing educators become flexible and skillful at adapting and mixing resources in OER Commons to address the Common Core State Standards, to support unique student learning needs and differentiated instruction, and to reflect local culture and language. ISKME's new Open Author platform allows teachers to collaboratively design, upload and share their own educational resources, and to mix and remix them with open resources found in OER Commons, and beyond. The number of resources in the OER Commons library grows daily, as does the number of educators who understand the flexibility and potential of OER to support the exciting instructional shifts taking place on the educational landscape.

January 12, 2013