As schools and districts try to reduce textbook costs and digitize instructional resources, one of the struggles many teachers have is finding good repositories of open education resources (OER). The first step is to know how to access OER resources. However, access itself isn’t enough and the sheer volume of materials can be overwhelming. The second challenge is knowing how to curate or organize the materials you find into useful groups. The term curate comes from the museum world where for eons, curators gathered artifacts and arranged them to tell a compelling story or to otherwise educate.

Recent scholarship further hints that teachers are not embracing digital resources in ways to make an impactful difference, even though we know that digital materials engage students and help improve student time on task. It is imperative that schools and districts work to make the process as simple as possible so teachers can experience success with digital resources.

Accessing OER
The State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) recently released a Guide to Quality Instructional Materials to support the move from print to digital materials. The U.S. Department of Education has its #GoOpen District Launch Packet, and Open Learning has a free online course (about 15 hours) on how to develop OER content. You can take the course online or download it to study offline. In total, Open Learning has more than 800 professional development courses to support teacher development.

How to find OER
Once teachers understand how to put online courses together, there are a variety of tools to assist in finding OER resources.

The Educause Library offers a wealth of resources across most subjects and grade levels. OER Commons is a core site with resources from preschool through adult education. MERLOT is a search engine for finding curated OER resources, and CK-12 provides a range of student support resources. OpenED includes a wide range of assessment materials that covers all areas, particularly math.

Next up, curation
Once teachers understand the value of OER resources and know where to find them, curation is the next task. Several states provide curation support, such as Wisconsin’s WISELearn Educator Portal, which connects Wisconsin educators so they can share resources. Because most states use the Common Core Standards, it is easy to cross state lines digitally. Symbaloo, another curation tool, is available for teachers or as a school- or district-level resource. Diigo is a curating resource that allows for annotating web resources directly through your browser via either an applet or a Chrome extension. For those new to curating OER resources, Diigo is a good place to start.

As the move from print to digital continues at all levels of education, OER resources offer schools and individual educators a wide range of resources to differentiate and expend their curriculum beyond traditional print materials. OER resources are often much more budget friendly, but teachers must understand how to integrate OER resources into their instruction and then be able to access and curate materials that can enrich their instruction and help meet or exceed their instructional goals.

About the Author:

Steve Baule, a former Midwestern school administrator, is an assistant professor of educational leadership at UW-Superior.