One of the challenges of OER is how resources often live as discrete units organized by standard but divorced from how they can be successfully used in a classroom, or more specifically, the practices that make them effective resources. One way I try to define and identify the "best" OER is to locate them in places where they are organized for classroom success. I define this to include a few things.
First, it means the resources are often organized into lessons, units, or courses to provide necessary context for their use.
Second, it ideally means the resources and their organizations (i.e. lessons) are able to be edited. This allows for teachers to hybridization them, meeting the different contexts and capacities of teachers and students, which increases the likelihood of their successful use.
Third, they exist next to modular tools that support their implementation centered around effective practices. Sometimes great resources or lessons require subscriptions, supplementary resources to be secured, or comprehensive use of a platform, which can limit access for educators. Having those necessary tool along with the resources is something to keep an eye out for.
For example, you find a series of checking for understanding mini-assessments to give your students but you and your students lack the ability to be responsive to the results in real-time. Having a free interface tool that facilitates this to go along with the resources makes the resources more useful.
An example of all of this is a course my network (Leadership Public Schools) built from various resources located on the web and built by teachers called Navigate Math. It aims to accelerate student understanding and ownership of math for those with learning gaps in late middle and early high school. Over the last few years it has produced an average of over 2.5 years of growth in a single year based on NWEA's MAP assessment. This was with a variety of teachers teaching the course, brand new to veteran.
How does this relate to identifying great OER? LPS partnered with a non-profit called Gooru to co-create what we call the Learning Navigator, the heart of their learning platform. The Navigator allows teachers to search and find discrete OER and OER assembled into specific lessons, units, and courses, including Navigate Math. By design, the Navigator allows teachers to "remix" the material, making a copy and editing it as they see fit. Additionally, it is a tool belt with specific modular tools including a real-time assessment system we built that brings the resources alive, allowing for the responsive learning and teaching mentioned before. The modularity means you can start by using a single tool that matches your pain point, capacity, and context (like real-time formative assessment) and later bridge to include other components. The modularity makes things less overwhelming, increasing access for teachers and students. Best of all, it's all free.
In summary, OER by themselves are often hard to use to unpack CCSS. However, if you put OER in a context like a course, make them editable, and pair them with modular tools centered around effective practice, you will create real opportunities for teachers wherever they are in their own capacity to unpack learning for students in ways that produce remarkable results.
A colleague of mine offered the following recommended resources.
There are several organizations actively working to solve the issue of OER curation and alignment to standards. Here are some examples and how they go about this work:
· ISKME runs the OER Commons, which is a repository of OER that is searchable by standard. However, the real value of ISKME is the hands-on technical assistance work they do with individual districts to help these districts put together a strong scope and sequence of CCSS and other standards-aligned OER.
· Gooru focuses specifically on providing curation services for OER. They have reviewed and aligned OER to several different sets of standards, including CCSS, NGSS, and TEKS. Their approach is to build the “Google Map of Education” and are run by Prasad Ram, one of the lead engineers on Google Maps itself.
· Open Up Resources is coordinating with Illustrative Mathematics and EL Education to build full-course, openly licensed curriculum for grades 6-8 math and ELA. This content will be fully aligned to CCSS and will be fully vetted by professional educators and content experts.
· UnboundEd is actively improving the quality, scope and sequence of the EngageNY materials, as well as building in professional development supports for this content.
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