One of my soapbox issues since I started in Education was the need for sharing and collaboration. Teaching is hard enough without cooperation. New teachers, including those I now find myself coaching, need all the help they can get. Providing them with free resources that they can adapt and edit to fit their student populations is so important, especially in those first few years when new teachers haven’t yet built their own personal arsenal of “go to” lessons and activities.
Decades ago in my first career, I first learned about Open Source software. Wikipedia defines Open source as computer software with its source code made available with a license in which the copyright holder provides the rights to study, change, and distribute the software to anyone and for any purpose. Open-source software may be developed in a collaborative public manner.
Working in high tech, the idea of collaborative development seemed a little like the wild, wild west. I didn’t really care much about Open Source until I started working in Education and funds were limited. Suddenly the idea of free and accessible seemed like a godsend to cash strapped schools.
Fast forward a few years and I have now figured out a platform for sharing lesson plans in Edmodo’s Spotlight. It is a place to share, collect, review, and discover helpful resources for your students and teaching. It acts as a marketplace where both publishers and teachers can create and share resources. Teachers from the Edmodo network can download, peruse or access these mostly free resources. Some teachers do choose to sell their lessons but that is not in my ethos.
As I am approaching the final years of my time in the classroom, I love having an outlet to share some of my favorite resources. I have shared original, editable content as well as recommended some of my favorite online resources. I've been sharing my favorite resources. I was thrilled to see the First Lady announce #OpenEBks on @Twitter and shared the resource with my PLN. I tagged my tweet with #OER and #freeandopen.
Through the magic of Twitter, I was re-schooled by Douglas Levin. Doug is the founder and president of EdTech Strategies, LLC. He is an adviser to federal and state policymakers and education leaders, Mr. Levin has conducted research that has informed and shaped the field, and written and spoken widely about the trends shaping the future of education. Doug pointed out my misuse of the term “open”
He then sent me a link to an article explaining (reminding me of) the definition of open in this context. We had a bit of a back and forth and I sent him a quote from the Princess Bride:
Which then inspired him to write a blog post which included this FAQ for educators about what OER really means.
Open educational resources are and always will be free, but not all free resources are OER. Free resources may be temporarily free or may be restricted from use at some time in the future (including by the addition of fees to access those resources). Moreover, free resources may not be modified, adapted or redistributed without express permissions from the copyright holder.
How do I know if an educational resource is an OER?
The key distinguishing characteristic of OER is its intellectual property license and the freedoms the license grants to others to share and adapt it. If a lesson plan or activity is not clearly tagged or marked as being in the public domain or having an open license, it is not OER. It’s that simple (emphasis mine). Creative Commons copyright licenses are standardized, free-to-use open licenses that facilitate the development and use of OER and are recommended for use by all K-12 educators.
Hopefully this will help clarify but mostly inspire you to openly share what you have created!