Sunday, November 25, 2007

Week 13

I read Bryan Ollendyke’s blog that suggested K-12 not be brought into the OER movement until we (the collegiate ones) figure out how to do it in Higher Education. At least I think that is what he was saying. Then I read Karen Fasimpaur’s blog and Kurt Johnson’s blog .
They both have experience in the K-12 realm. It made me wonder about policy and content. Policy takes time. I am not an expert on policy, but it seems that it is formed after the experience has taken place not before. I agree with Bryan that Higher Ed is probably the place that is using students and grants to develop OER, but I think OER should be promulgated at all levels and at the same time, which is now.
And this is where I really get behind what Karen said: “In OER, there are more discussions about licenses, standards, and metadata than there are about content, learners, and outcomes. I believe that this needs to change if the OER is to be successful in fulfilling its enormous potential.”
I loved Kurt’s description of ‘learning objects’ in the elementary schools: “… I see learning objects being used in elementary classrooms every day. Teachers call them books, posters, pictures, videos, dvds, and 'stuff.' The best loved learning object[s] in elementary schools are any worksheet, lesson plan, or handout another teacher has and will let you use.” We sometimes forget that learning objects, by another name, have been around since the beginning of education.
The future. I agree with Karen’s discussion about OER but I would add one more thing. As we push forward, I am concerned that many are being left behind. With whom are we discussing OER? Who are we bringing into the fold? For me, OER is about opening educational opportunities to everyone, especially the underserved, the neglected, the poor, the people who traditionally face barriers to education. With that in mind, I ask again, with whom are we discussing OER? There are people in education now that once were prohibited from being there. Are they being asked to join? Are they being told about OER? Are they being brought into the movement? After all, they know how to reach the underserved, the neglected, and the disenfranchised because they are members of that population. I look around me at the conferences I have attended, the discussions online, the contributors to OER and I become concerned for all the faces that should be there, that should be contributing but are not. I believe the future will not be a good one unless we pull everyone into this movement and listen to what they have to say.
If I were to write a story about the future of OER, based on what I know about it today, it would not be a story about success. It would paint the picture of an OER movement that forgot to include/ chose not to include/ or just went nilly willy ahead without thinking about including all the players that make up the teaching professions.
Before we start building policy, we should make sure that all the important players are included; otherwise it becomes a movement by the chosen few, for the chosen few and sensitive only to the chosen few. Including educators from all grades, and from diverse populations, should be our goal immediately. We need to reach out in a broader sweep, being careful not to disenfranchise anyone. There are many ideas out there that we have not heard. It is at this point that we should still be open to the thoughts of many, not just a few. In the end, if we can do this, the rewards will be great; the culture of education will have a chance to change into something extraordinary for all.
I do not see any reason why OER can’t work for every grade level. I realize that each educational system has unique characteristics but I believe that members of those educational systems, if they believe in the movement, can overcome any problems. I come from a very, very rural area. As long ago as seven years, High School students in my town were able to get an Associates degree the day they graduated from high school because of some of the distance classes that were available, and a school district with vision. OER can fill the needs of unique problems found in any school district, not just rural areas. Think of the disabled, the sick, the rural, school districts that can't afford to include specialty teachers (i.e. languages), and students for one reason or another that just cannot physically get to a school that offers what they need. OER absolutely fills the needs. I also see in the future, if we are careful, schools completely changing because of OER.

Wiley is a man who always has a special insight into places and times. I believe he is right about the licensing issues that will plague OER efforts. My belief is that we must disentangle OER from the commercial world and the pirates who would continually fight to keep barriers to education blocked for their own commercial gain. Education is one area that should be kept separate from profit. The teachers are separated from profit, so why not all of the parts and pieces that make up education, like learning objects? The open source movement has taught economists that there are motivators beyond just dollars in some economies.

And, harp, harp, harp. As we discuss localization and colonization we need to be aware that some people are missing from the movement. Non-inclusion will one day come back to bite the butt of OER. What measures are we taking to make sure that all stakeholders are included?

*photo by Kiraia from Flickr