Help Teachers Navigate Open Education Resources

Teachers are short on time and it’s up to us, with the products and services we create, to give them back more time in their days.

Companies in the education industry emerge and rise to the top because of their ability to give educators what they want – and traditionally that has included high quality materials, applications, and tools that aid in teaching and learning. As Open Education Resources (OER’s) have emerged as a game changer – completely free and accessible academic content, with millions of choices on the web – a new need has emerged for organizations to help guide teachers in finding the tools for their needs quickly and effectively.

Some brands are immediately trusted – for their accuracy and their level of standards. When they publish a textbook, their users know what they are getting. With OER’s, unfortunately it can mean that anything goes, and it’s up to the users to determine the value and accuracy of the found material. On the one hand, with a trusted brand, money is spent and time is saved knowing the right resource was found. On the other hand, with finding OER’s on the web, teachers haven’t spent any money, but they’ve spent endless hours wading through free resources. Which is more valuable? Time vs money? The age-old question.

Elliot Soloway, Arthur F. Thurnau professor at the University of Michigan, has thought about these issues, and researched what resources provide teachers with vetting of these endless OER’s. The idea of free open resources is a wonderful thing, to free up funding for other areas, but the time spent researching may not make it ultimately feasible. Furthermore, “… many educators know there’s a world of difference between content and curriculum – vetted, standards-aligned, scope and sequenced learning activities,” Soloway said.  He suggests a few web resources that not only provide OER content (videos, PDFs and other media), they offer full lessons and curricula to help utilize the content in the classroom.

Originally featured in an article from ISTE, here are some of Elliot Soloway’s recommendations for OER curricula:

  • This web platform has provided OER content for teachers for a long time – and has become a trusted resource for not only content, but for full lesson plans that teachers can implement easily.
  • Edmodo is considered a pioneer among OER sites. It features a “Spotlight” tool, that allows teachers to search for OER resources in a timely manner, among other helpful tools.
  • Featuring a product called the Learning Navigator, it allows teachers to search from over 4 million free OERs, as well as offering a host of other content and learning management features.
  • This website has also been around for a fairly long time by OER standards, and offers a community for teaching or studying, where users can create, share, and explore vetted K-12 content.

Since we gave you an introduction to how OERs are going mainstream, in both the college and K-12 industry, many more options are now available to utilize. We’re sure many more will crop up to help bridge the gap between open resources, and classroom implementation. Many of these business are donation based – so while the resources are free, their navigation tools cost money to develop, so your generosity with supporting them will go a long way.

Furthermore, some of these organizations provide content management systems, and other proprietary features to help use these web resources effectively, which may be an attractive option for some teachers. Helpful vetting makes the possibility of using endless free resources a reality for time crunched teachers, and it’s great to see that these organizations have the teachers’ collective back, helping to usher in this free and open content stream into the future.