Free Hugs….Free Resources…Same difference!

This week we were encouraged to explore different Open Education Resources. As an educator, I was very excited to explore these resources to see what benefits I could use from these resources. The resources I was drawn to were ones that I could use currently in my classroom for planning. As discussed in my last blog post Sharing is caring…an ethical responsibility I shared Dean Shareski’s idea that it is an ethical responsibility for teachers to share their work. With this in mind, I was looking for resources that allowed teachers to share their work with others. What better resources to get your hands on than ideas and lessons that other teachers have already test drove in their classrooms.

The OER resource that I am going to focus on for this post is OER Commons. When entering this site you are immediately greeted with this welcoming message:

OER Commons is a public digital library of open educational resources. It allows educators to explore, create and collaborate with educators around the world to improve curriculum. 

I began to look around to see if I could find their views and values around OER and that led me to their page About OER CommonsThis page clearly outlines their views on OER. It also provides a PDF link to a PDF of frequently asked questions by k-12 educators.

Photo Credit: OER Commons

They also shared their views on OEP. Which is Open Education Practice.  They share how this allows teachers to immerse themselves in collaboration. This provides teachers the opportunity to share resources to help improve education for students. They share how open practice allows educators to adjust the content based on their learners without limitations of “all rights reserved”. I appreciate how they addressed the benefits for teachers and addressed how teachers are able to adjust the content based on meeting their student’s needs and not having to worry about all rights reserved for the content.

Photo Credit: OER Commons

Let’s assess it!

Is it user-friendly?

When entering the OER site I found it to be very user-friendly. On the home page, there is a search engine that allows you to look for whatever it is you are looking for. You can narrow your search by changing the subject area and the grade level. I found this to be great because then it narrows the search down specifically to your grade level. There is also an option for an advanced search that allows you to choose many other options. In the advanced search, it gives you the option to choose what type of conditions of use you would like the resource to have. I think this is a great option as it allows you to then only see resources that fit the needs of your sharing.

Photo Source: OER Commons

Lets Explore: 

Currently, my students are working on a sound unit in Science. I decided that I would search to see what resources I could currently use for this unit. After searching sound for upper elementary students, many lessons and resources popped up. One feature I appreciate is the ratings that each resource has. When other teachers use the resource they can then go back on and rate the lesson or resource. This is helpful as a teacher because it allows you to see others opinions on the lessons as well as any feedback they may have. While searching you can also choose what type of material you are looking for. Are you looking for an activity, a lab, an assessment, a lesson or something interactive? You can choose what you are looking for specifically to narrow down your results.

When you open up a resource that interests you, you are immediately shown the education standards the lesson aims to meet. It also shows the author of the lesson, what grades it is appropriate for, what type of lesson it is, and gives an abstract to what the lesson is about. I find this to be very organized and user-friendly as everything you need to see about the lesson is right there. On this page, it also shares the conditions of use. It shares who the copyright holder is as well as the use guidelines. For the specific lesson on investigating sound,  the conditions of use were: remix and share. It then provides a link to a description of that type of copyright that says “You are free to” and describes what a teacher can do with that resource under that copyright. I found this to be very helpful, clear and conciese how it provides you with the exact definition of the terms.

Photo Source: OER Commons

I explored many of the lessons on the science topics sound and habitats and I found lots of useful lessons that I could implement and use in my classroom. Many of the lessons link to full lesson plans when you click view resource and this provides you with a summary of the lesson, learning goals, description and teaching materials, assessments and the standards. I find these lessons to be very well laid out and easy to follow. Some of the lessons lead you to websites and other online games and activities that aren’t as user-friendly and some of them require you to further sign up to use their sites which can be time-consuming for teachers and difficult for students to use. I found the quality of content from lesson to lesson varies and it took a lot of time to sift through all of the lessons. The rating of the lessons should be helpful to guide you towards the quality lessons but I didn’t necessarily find that while looking through the lessons. Some lessons were rated 5 stars but I did not find them to be 5-star quality.

Photo Source: OER Commons

While looking through the lessons one thing I noticed was that the majority of the lessons did not have visuals or activity sheets for the students that would go with the lessons. Many of the lessons were good but as a teacher, I would then have to create the science experiment prediction pages or data collection sheets. I feel that this is something that the lessons could improve on as I feel that creating these or finding these online takes a lot of time. I was hoping and anticipating that some of the resources would be similar to Teachers Pay Teachers where aside from the lessons there would also be an area of high quality printable that teachers could use during their lessons.

Another area of the website I found was the Common Core OER Collection. This allows teachers to look specifically at all of the English Language Arts and Math resources that are collected into one spot.  This allows teachers to quickly locate any lessons that meet the core objectives. The objectives listed on this site are American state standards which of course is unfortunate that they are not Canadian but since they are listed you can easily compare them to our Provincial outcomes to see how the objectives compare and crossover. The great thing about using lessons off of this site is that you are able to remix and reuse them, however, fits your needs so you can remake them to fit the objectives you are teaching. The following pictures compare the Grade 4 State Standards listed on one of the common core OER lessons to the Saskatchewan Grade 4 math outcome. It was easy to find outcomes that closely linked to their outcomes.

Photo Credit: OER Commons

Photo Credit: Saskatchewan Curriculum

Final Thoughts

After reviewing this site in depth I do feel like this is a great resource for teachers. I feel that it offers a variety of lessons meeting a variety of grade levels. I feel that websites like this could and should be utilized more by teachers. Prior to this class, I did not understand what OER was and I feel that I have been missing out on a lot of resources as a teacher. I asked a few of my co-workers what their understanding of OER was and many of them also had no idea. I feel that in order to improve OER and make this a bigger movement more teachers need to understand and get on board. If many teachers do not even know what it is they are not able to share resources and this is leaving a lot of resources off the table.

Team Strengthen Increase Teamwork

Photo Source: Sandler Training

Moving forward, my goal is to continue to explore OER and educate other teachers about what OER is and how they can use and also contribute to it. I feel like in order to make this a bigger movement we need to embrace Dean’s idea of sharing and all be on board with sharing. This will, in turn, make all of our jobs easier by having access to high-quality teacher made resources. My goal this term is to get involved and start sharing!

My question to other educators is: Have you shared resources on OER sites? If not, why not? Do you plan on starting to contribute? Let’s work together to make our jobs and lives easier!

About cdegelman

Grade 3/4 teacher at Douglas Park School in Regina, Saskatchewan
This entry was posted in EC&I 831 and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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