This week I’ll be brainstorming with other Oklahoma educators working on a Race To The Top (RTTT) federal grant application. When it comes to technology integration and STEM, one of the best ideas I can suggest is providing opportunities for teachers to build digital curriculum together. If these online curriculum materials are published on the OPEN WEB (instead of the “closed web,” behind a login to a learning management system like Moodle or Blackboard) and “openly licensed” they can become “open educational resources” (OER) available to be freely used and remixed by other learners around the world. I presented on OER at the Iowa 1:1 Institute on April 7th, and since that time have been thinking more about how we can encourage more educators to not only utilize OER but also contribute to OER globally.
A foundational skill for using Internet resources effectively with students is the ability to create a website with text, hyperlinks, images, and embedded media including videos. I don’t have research statistics to back me up, but I’d estimate fewer than five percent of the in-service teachers in our state today are skilled and comfortable doing this. If a grant (RTTT or otherwise) can provide opportunities for educators to learn how to build personalized, rich-media webpages online, I think this is potentially a big win for their digital literacy skills as well as those of their students. It would also be a win for the availability of openly licensed curriculum more generally. In Timothy Vollmer’s recent interview with Karen Fasimpaur for Creative Commons, Karen stated:
The most important thing about OER [Open Educational Resources] is not that it saves money in the short term, but that it is beneficial to learning by allowing more customization and differentiation. Ultimately, that will also save money by allowing schools to spend funds on the content and services that best serve their students and by improving student engagement and achievement.
Back in late February, I taught my “Technology 4 Teachers” undergraduate students how to create rich media websites, or “learning portals,” using either Google Sites or WikiSpaces. For most of my students, this was the first time they had EVER created a webpage or website using a wiki. While everyone had USED a wiki at least briefly (like WikiPedia) few had CREATED CONTENT with or on a wiki.
One idea for a STEM-focused RTTT grant application is to have teachers build and share STEM-specific, openly licensed curriculum resources and lesson plans using wikis. This could be organized with a suggested “template” for teachers to follow in building their online resources. Part of the template for these online resources should include, in my view, an OPEN use license which would permit others to remix and build-upon these works. A Creative Commons license is probably best, and I’d suggest the Creative Commons, Non-commercial, Share-alike license since it naturally encourages the further propagation of its usage terms. (Its use also provides a legal remedy in the case of scrape blogs or other unauthorized / unwanted content re-use.)
The question I want to offer up to you is: Where is the best place for educators to create and share content-specific OER lessons like this? Curriki is the main OER project I’ve heard about to date which is specific for K-12. While educators in our “to be possibly funded RTTT grant” could create lesson plans DIRECTLY in Curriki, I’m thinking it might be more valuable to empower them to create their lessons as webpages using a free wiki tool like Google Sites or Wikispaces. Then, their lesson resource could be linked / indexed within Curriki as well as other OER directories like DiscoverEd, OER Commons, and Connexions.
What do you think? Is there a “best practice” procedure which a group or individual has created already for empowering educators to create OER resources and contribute them to OER repositories? If so, please share the link!
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