Open Educational Resources are taking the landscape by storm! As technology in the classroom is starting to become accepted, schools and districts are rethinking their content strategy. While many publishers are still hoping that teachers will simply switch over to their own digital content, we are increasingly seeing a shift away to new digital content, with 'free' ones in the lead.
Let's list them
We will list here the most famous and vetted OER's. If we missed your content, please drop us a line and we'll update this list.
Note: This list is dynamic and we will keep adding to it as we vet them.
How come they are free?
We are so used to paying for everything in our schools, we often don't get why someone would give something away. Especially when books cost so much (and their digital versions as well).
The top ones in the list above are supported by some very prestigious foundations, who genuinely care about education. Education is also a 'cool' thing to invest in. Many organisations want to show off how they are keenly investing in making our students better (and in the process use their software / hardware in the future).
The first 4 above are developed by teachers with a clear focus on learning objectives and standards. The last (Khan Academy) made itself a reputation as a pioneer in the self-learning space, even though there has been an effort recently to 'standardize' it. There have been some additions with learning trees and the like. If you are going to use learning content in your classroom, these first 4 are excellent choices and align very well with your standards-mandated learning objectives.
Yup, we have to list them as well, so you can plan for your own deployments.
First, as you switch from print to digital, you will be overwhelmed with the amount of content available. While printing is a very methodical process, it's very easy for OER's to keep adding and adding to their library. So it's best to start by listing what you want to teach. The old way, of starting with what is available will simply take forever.
Think of it this way, have you ever read an eBook? Did you miss flipping the pages to get a bearing of where you are going? It's the same thing in this case. Flipping the pages is actually an intellectual exercise, and you can't do it with digital content (unfortunately). So you have to put some more effort into planning.
Second, you will find that the material is not presented exactly the same way you are used to. This will frustrate you. But don't worry. You can (and in our opinion should) tell the students what caveats there are and where you disagree with how it's presented. (hint: it makes you look much smarter to your students too!)
Lastly, you will have some challenges organising your material. See a few paragraphs below How to use OER's in the classroom for some hints on how to get around this.
Once you are setup for digital content, your life becomes so much easier. Trust us. The material is online, it's interactive and visual. And your students are having fun. You are still firmly in control, and your students are learning. What's not to like? And don't worry ... most students are just too lazy to look at other resources you haven't selected (in case you are worried they might get ahead of your teaching plans).
How to select OER material
The first thing to do when exploring the use of OER's, is to go through the content. Just like when you started looking at the provided textbook to make heads and tails of it, you should do the same for digital content.
- Which material to use for presentation (in-classroom)
- Which material to use for home reading (e.g. flipped classroom)
- Which activities to use for reinforcement (in and out of classroom)
- Which quizzes and practices
- How to link to the material in the classroom (e.g. your notes or state standards)
How to use OER's in the Classroom
If you are not using ClassroomAPP
Each activity or content item you are interested in will have a custom link. Some of the resources above allow you to add the links to your profile or you can save them as bookmarks in your browser to share with the students. Increasingly these tools have designed teacher-friendly features that allow you to save and tag material.
The challenges come in when:
- you start to use many OER's with their different dashboards, or
- when you switch grades / school (you may find yourself having to redo some work). or
- when the links are too long to type and students get lost (sometimes intentionally as you might expect).
If you are using ClassroomAPP
We recommend our teachers save their links in ClassroomAPP. This allows them to share it with not only students, but also other teachers and even parents. The ecosystem becomes more open and easier to access for all stakeholders.
You can then export and re-import at will (and even save as backup if you feel you invested time to chose your favourite resources).
Finally, we recommend strongly you use the Follow mode to have your students follow you automatically as you access resources online. You can then run your Reports to see how students are doing.
In Conclusion ...
Digital resources are here to stay, and they add so much to the teaching and learning experience. If you are still hesitant, mix it up. Some classical (print) and some digital. You don't have to pay for some really good resources, so experimentation won't cost you (or the school) more than a few keyboard clicks. Have fun!