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OER Handbook for Educators

Create OER

(possible new section to start off this section of OER educator)

The success of OER depends on many volunteers all over the world taking part in creating these resources. For that reason, this section on creating OER is an important one.

Many educators assume that when they put content on the Internet, they are doing so to share with others. While that may be true, unless Internet-materials are licensed under open licenses, such as those described in ____, others' ability to share these resources legally is significantly restricted. Perhaps the greatest gain to the OER movement would be if the huge number of educational resources already on the Internet were open licensed. Most educators are very willing to share. If all of the teacher-created web pages, lesson plans, handouts, and multimedia presentations already on the Internet were open licensed, the world of OER would increase by several fold. To do this, all you need to do is add an open license to your work. You can simply type a license such as "CC BY" to your work or use the "License Your Work" tool provided on the Creative Commons site, which will also ensure that your work gets listed in OER search engines.

Beyond this, there are many opportunities to create new OER. While creating OER , may seem like a daunting task, there are many small ways you can participate. The easiest way to get started is to join in on an existing project like Wikipedia or Wikibooks. Just making small edits or corrections adds value to these projects. Many of these projects are written primarily by subject matter experts and may lack the pedagogical finesse of teachers. Over time, as you gain confidence in your OER skills, you can move on to contributing larger sections or even starting your own project.

In the next sections, we'll look at what kind of formats and tools you can use as you create your OER.

User Stories for OER Handbook

Creating OER

User story #1: Interactive Ebooks to Identify Cause and Effect
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.


User story #1:

User story #2: Wikipedia

downloading Wikipedia to CD
Wikipedia for Schools

Remix OER

User story #1: Animal Alphabet remixes
A community member of Wikibooks created the Animal Alphabet book there to help young children learn the alphabet. The book features colorful photos that were taken from open sources such Wikimedia Commons and Flickr. After being downloaded, the photos were cropped and resized. Text for each alphabet letter was added. The resulting images were then uploaded to Wikibooks and compiled into the Animal Alphabet book.

Taking that project a step further, another Wikibooks community member remixed the animal alphabet book to create a variety of formats, such as ebooks and videos. These can be used on a variety of hardware platforms (handhelds, iPods, cell phones, etc.) and both online and offline. The videos included music from an open licensed symphony performance and narration that was recorded by the creator. One of these videos was also uploaded to the TeacherTube web site where it has since been viewed over 7,000 times. Converting the Animal Alphabet book to a video was a relatively easy task that only took a few hours, but the resulting remix adds a whole new dimension to the content. Creating and remixing this OER was a rewarding task for the creators and provided a useful resource for teachers, kids, and parents around the world.

User story #2: Sight Word Videos
FreeReading is an open licensed site that ...

User story #3
Kids remixing with photos etc for poetry project


Wikibooks in print _________

Rewrite of mobile section of OER Handbook

Mobile devices include small computing devices, such as handheld computers, sub-laptops, mobile media players, and even cell phones. In many areas of world, access to mobile phones is more widespread than access to desktop computers. In addition, access to cell networks is more widely distributed than access to traditional Internet (via landlines, T-1, or WiFi). Mobile devices have been found to be effective tools for learning and in many cases are easier to integrate into instruction. For all of these reasons, accessing OER via mobile devices is an important thing to consider.

Specific OER projects may or may not be well-suited for use on mobile devices, depending on how they were developed, how they are hosted, and a variety of other considerations.

Some of the issues to consider include:

  • Online vs. offline use

While most OER exist online, mobile users often prefer to download content and access it offline. Content can be provided offline in formats such as ebooks, docs, or multimedia files. These files can then be stored on a memory card or on internal device memory. As an example, some universities distribute online courses for access on mobile devices. This course content can be downloaded on a desktop computer and then transferred to a memory card for offline use on a cell phone or handheld.

In order for OER to work in this way, developers need to make the content available in a downloadable format. Using XML or a similar system that tags content in a flexible way can make exporting content for various types of use feasible. See the discussion of file format issues below for more information on this.

The most common problem with mobile versions of an OER is device incompatibility. There is no way to test on all possible mobile devices. Therefore, you should focus on testing mobile devices that will be used by your target audience. Ideally, all learners will be using the same mobile device, though that is not always possible.

  • Bandwidth requirements

When content is going to be streamed or viewed online, bandwidth is an important consideration. Mobile devices with Internet access often have relatively low connection speeds. This results in slower download times, especially for multimedia content. One solution to this is to present content in smaller chunks that can be downloaded individually. Bandwidth requirements can also be reduced by shrinking or reducing images, breaking up pages of text, or re-encoding video for smaller file sizes. It is recommended that you try out your lesson using the available bandwidth before distributing it.

  • Format issues

Mobile devices come in a wide variety of sizes and with many operating systems and software programs. Keeping in mind the unique features of mobile devices is important if OER content is to be usable.

    • Display size

Display size is one consideration. Most mobile devices have a relatively small screen size (e.g. 320 x 240 pixels). While often a concern, research has shown that readability and comprehension are not affected by small screen sizes. Anecdotal observation of learners with mobile devices confirms this.

Simple text is generally not adversely affected by screen size, because the text will reflow to fit the screen. However, images, video, and text that is highly formatted can be rendered unusable on small screens. Design suggestions to maximize usability include avoiding tables, frames, and columns; providing low resolution version of images; including text alternatives for images; and avoiding pop-ups and Flash. (These suggestions will also increase accessibility for special needs users as well.)

Content creators who want their content to be accessible to mobile users may wish to consider providing a mobile version of their site, such as Wikipedia and others do. Again using XML and content-based tags will make compiling multiple versions like this easier.

    • File format

Another issue to consider is file format. Some mobile devices have browsers that can read standard HTML files (see below), but for offline viewing or multimedia files, other file formats should be considered. While many proponents of OER favor "open" file formats, at present, most mobile devices do not support these formats. Ideally, content providers will offer options for different users.

For text-based information, simple text, rtf, or HTML files are widely accessible formats. Formats such as DOC (MS Word), ODT (Open Office), or PDFs should be avoided if possible, since they are not widely available on mobile devices. For many handhelds, ebooks are a favorable format since they provide extra features like hyperlinks, linked dictionaries, and even text to speech capabilities. However, to provide ebooks, a developer must know the software available for the target users' devices. (There are many different ebook programs.) Mobipocket is one of the most widely used ebook readers, because it supports many devices. Microsoft Reader is another commonly used ebook format, but is not as broadly compatible. (Note: These are both free, but not open, tools.)

For audio content, MP3 is the obvious choice for file format. While this is not strictly speaking an open format, it is a format that will play on nearly every device that plays audio. (The open alternative is OGG, which is supported on very few devices.)

For video content, there is not currently one format that works on most mobile devices. The options for content providers are to provide video content in multiple formats or to suggest that users convert to the video to their own format of choice.

    • Browser capability (for online content)

For online content, it is important to remember that mobile device browsers vary in their capabilities. Often items like java script, Flash, or other types of interactive features will not work properly on mobile devices. Frames and tables also do not display well on small screen browsers.

  • Professional development and training needs

In order for OER to be successful on mobile devices, learners must be familiar with their devices and how to access and use content. Often, this involves delivering training to make sure learners can effectively use the tools.

Garreau, Joel. "Our Cells, Ourselves." Retrieved 16 April, 2008. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/02/22/AR2008022202283_pf.html

Fasimpaur, Karen. "101 Great Educational Uses for Your Handheld Computer." Long Beach, CA: K12 Handhelds, Inc., 2003.