Part of personalized learning is the burden on educators to come up with a customized curriculum. That curriculum includes Open Educational Resources, or OERs, which are resources within the public domain.
The problem with leveraging these resources is that the teachers have to find them, which includes scouring the Internet. As simple as that sounds, we’ve all at one time or another found ourselves down the rabbit hole of web browsing. You intend to read an article on the economy only to find yourself an hour later browsing through a photo gallery of celebrities who have had plastic surgery.
As silly as that sounds, just as much time can be wasted when we’re fully intentional with our web browsing. Teachers have to search for relevant resources, look through the promising ones, and then continue searching if they don’t find the right fit, and traditional search engines just won’t cut it.
“As Michelle Molnar pointed out quite eloquently, how are teachers to find the specific video they need amid the literally millions of OER on the Internet?” writes Cathie Norris and Elliot Soloway in their article, So, When During the School Day Should Teachers Create Curriculum?
“And, while Google/Bing are terrific at identifying random pills by their markings and shape, Google/Bing really can’t help a teacher find OER for the water cycle, for fourth grade, for children with visual learning disabilities and for those whose second language is English.”
Learning Registry to the Rescue
Thankfully, there are resources such as Learning Registry for educators to use. The Learning Registry aggregates the metadata of content to help educators locate specific resources using publisher, location, content area, standards alignment, ratings, reviews, and more.
The resource is a joint effort by the Department of Education and the Department of Defense, implemented in 2011. The initiative has since grown, with more and more websites jumping on board to become an available tool for teachers.
“In a recent state-of-the-OER report, the Department of Education – almost giddily – noted that 14 states, 40 districts, several companies (e.g., Amazon, Microsoft, OpenEd.com), and many organizations (e.g., Center for Digital Education, the International Society for Technology in Education) are all moving – and moving with some serious speed – to the OER drum,” writes Norris and Soloway.
Norris and Soloway’s article adds a little edge to the curriculum conversation, challenging the notion that teachers have the time to spend time developing their own curriculum and looking for OERs. Other thought leaders argue that teachers should spend that time.
Andrew Marcinek, Director of Technology and EducatorU.org Co-founder, sees this process as an obligation.
“While some may argue that this creates more work for educators, it should actually become a practice that all life-long learners or lead learners engage in regularly,” he writes. “At the core, educators are hired as content experts who will stay abreast of the changing landscape in their area of expertise.”
Some of the comments made in response to Norris and Soloway’s article definitely speak to Marcinek’s point.
“I appear to be an outlier,” writes Alice Flarend. “After my 2nd year of teaching (high school physics), I have always wrote my own curriculum for my three levels of physics ( very basic level all the way to calculus based). I do not use the textbook, except as a prop to hold up a ramp. I find that working at creating my own resources has allowed my to dig deep into the content and my students’ learning.
“I think deeply about my goals and the coherence of the class. I can personalize it. My students tell me stories and those stories become the basis for our assessment problems. Their questions become discussion prompts for their class and the other classes. Resources created by others always need to be tweaked and often they are too rote or boring.”
What are your thoughts on the curriculum conversation? Comment below!