Perspectives

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Image courtesy of seier+seier+seier

A middle school in Delaware was looking for short reading selections that students could access on mobile devices to practice reading comprehension and identifying cause and effect. While the school's textbooks had some reading passages, they were copyrighted and could not be put on the mobile devices (or the Internet). The school wanted to use mobile devices, because all of their students already had them, and the devices were very motivating to students. They were also looking for more passages and the inclusion of interactivity so that students could practice their skills and get immediate feedback.
Rather than write new passages for this, the school chose to make use of OER. Reading passages were taken from Wikibooks and Wikipedia and adapted for the specific classroom's needs. Questions were added that emphasized the cause and effect skills being taught. These passages were then merged into one document and reformatted as an ebook. Students could then use these and get immediate feedback as they answered the questions.

This project was easy to manage and successful. The fact that the open resources that were used could be edited was critical, because it allowed the materials to be edited to be appropriate for the students using them (Fasimpaur, 2008).


Getting high quality artwork to enrich your OER can be a challenge (especially if you're not an artist), but it's an important part of making OER engaging and comprehensible. The OER site FreeReading.net has been successful in getting community members to contribute in a variety of areas, including art. Artist Cheryl Johnson has contributed some wonderful illustrations to the project. (It's interesting to note that Johnson does not consider herself computer savvy. Her artwork is hand drawn and scanned in. This makes the important point that some of the best contributions to OER can come from outside the tech community.)

About contributing to the project, Johnson says, "Recently I was directed to the website Free-Reading.net and was told that it was in need of artists willing to contribute illustrations of short passages as a resource for teaching literacy to young children. I checked online and saw what was required in the way of art and decided to devote some time to the site. This was the very kind of artwork that I have enjoyed drawing most of my life especially as my own four children were growing up. I have always liked doing line drawings to color in and have spent many happy hours with children, mine and their friends, drawing on demand so that they could color in my pictures. It's very exciting to read the passages and have a mental picture immediately pop up in my head. I hope to continue to contribute artistically to this wonderful site."

Many have benefited from Johnson's contributions to this project (Fasimpaur, 2008).


In the context of project goals, an open educational resource project must make decisions about finding and utilizing non-monetary incentives to engage as many participants as possible. Utilizing student volunteers in production, decentralizing support responsibilities across the group of users, and leveraging organizational rewards for participation are all ways of reducing costs, though they come with some tradeoffs (Wiley, 2007).


In my experience, using and creating OER's should always involve a specific purpose. In our case, we wanted to teach people how to use wikis and blogs in the classroom, and we tried to focus on that topic (Gardner, 2008).


"How much is enough?" Intellectual property concerns, faculty and institution preferences and publishing level of effort generally dictate that only a subset of the materials used in a given class will be published via an OCW site. How much, then, is enough to provide significant value to end users?

This answer differs from project to project, often based on the audience that is of most interest to the publishing institution. For a school interested in supporting independent learning, a more complete set of materials is required. For a school interested in providing resources for educators and enrolled students, often less material from a course is still very useful, especially if this permits materials from more courses in total to be published, providing a broader view of curricular structures. The trade off here is almost always depth vs. breadth (Williamson, 2007).


...Most Moodle teachers use it [Moodle] to post static resources with little thought to how to change their teaching. They use the technology to amplify their old, inefficient methods. A smaller number use it to slightly modify their delivery, moving some tasks out of the classroom. And then a very few understand the potential revolution and transform their classroom practice in extraordinary and powerful ways (Cole, 2007).


As product manager of FreeReading.net (a K-3 open source early literacy program), I am consistently amazed by the talents and generosity of the FreeReading community. Since our launch last fall we've seen hundreds of lessons, illustrations and literacy songs posted on the website. In addition, over the last year, the FreeReading development team has met with dozens of teachers to spread the word about FreeReading, pilot the program and solicit feedback. FreeReading has clearly become a vibrant community of educators and researchers that truly care about sharing best practices and helping children learn to read for FREE.

We hope that the FreeReading community will continue to grow, extending it, adapting it and sharing its successes with teachers across the globe making it the "Linux" of early literacy education! As a former English teacher who had limited resources while teaching abroad, open source education resources are a dream come true. I hope that the energy and momentum around projects like FreeReading, OER Commons, and Curriki will grow exponentially as more educators learn about the open source education movement. (Anna Batchelder, 2008)

Sources

Cole, J. (2007, April 13). One Moodle per child? Using Moodle: Thoughts and musings on Moodle and Open Education. Retrieved May 21, 2008 from http://usingmoodle.blogspot.com/2007/04/one-moodle-per-child.html
Fasimpaur, K. (2008, April).
Gardner, J. (2008, May 1).
Wiley, D. (2007). On the sustainability of open educational resource initiatives in higher education. Paper commissioned by the OECD's Centre for Educational Research and Innovation (CERI) for the project on Open Educational Resources. Retrieved May 13, 2008, from http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/33/9/38645447.pdf
Williamson, W. (2007, August 21). How much OCW is enough? Wide Open Education. Retrieved May 21, 2008, from http://oedb.org/blogs/wideopen/category/opencourseware/

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