My Musings on Open Education

As I have done some reading and watching to educate myself on the concept of open education, I have come up with a few thoughts. Here they are, in no particular order:

  1. Education is built on sharing. Dean Shareski noted this in his video. I look back thirteen years ago when I first started teaching and think of the endless hours I spent thinking of ideas and developing resources. Times have definitely changed. Ideas and resources are available at our fingertips now. They were when I started teaching as well (to an extent), but I didn’t know about them and was never guided toward them. In some ways I think I took some foolish pride in developing my own resources – I didn’t need someone to do my job for me! Today I would rather spend time at home, as opposed to being at school until 8:00 every night. Where I am going with this is that I see access to resources everywhere. The internet is full of places to find materials (more on this in my next point). I also think teachers are great at sharing with each other. I see it weekly in my school with teachers offering resources or sharing ideas. While some may not share on a public or global scale, I think the vast majority of teachers are always willing to share in their schools.
Sharing Is Caring Share Sticker - Sharing Is Caring Share Give - Discover &  Share GIFs

2. I’m giving Curtis full props on this one. Teachers pay teachers is a rip-off. I have personally never bought anything off the site, and I realize I may be one of the few that never has. Maybe this is my foolish pride coming into play again, but I have trouble paying someone for a lesson plan. I also have fear that what I pay for will not meet my expectations. When it comes down to it, are sites like TPT really open education? They seem more like a side business to me. I am all for making money and getting your dues, but if we are going to take pride as educators in saying that education is built on sharing, we shouldn’t be turning it into a money making venture.

Show Me The Money GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

3. Where should shared resources come from? I often wonder, and have had many teachers ask the same, why there are not standard unit plans prepared for teachers by our government. We are all teaching the same curriculum, why are we not provided better resources? Don’t get me wrong, I understand and appreciate the freedom we are given to teach outcomes how they suit us and our students, but it might be helpful to have some concrete resources. I have also found myself looking at certain outcomes and wondering what exactly they mean. I do appreciate the opportunities that a ‘grey’ area provides us, but sometimes it is nice to have black and white outcomes…and providing resources for these outcomes would be a helpful starting point.

4. What is the correlation between open education and social justice? We have discussed our role as educators and our use of technology as it pertains to advancing social justice initiatives. There is no doubt that we have some role to play, and I think the notion of open education is directly related to this role. Dean Shareski stated that an obligation of school is to teach beyond students in the building. Do we have an obligation as teachers in a developed nation to share resources with teachers who are trying to educate in environments where they don’t have the resources and abilities to find and develop their own teaching materials? I think a pretty good argument could be made to answer this question affirmatively. We are teaching students beyond our building by helping to provide effective learning resources for them.

Open Pedagogy and Social Justice published by the Digital Pedagogy Lab wrote the following about open education as it pertains to environments of higher learning:

“When faculty use OER, we aren’t just saving a student money on textbooks: we are directly impacting that student’s ability to enroll in, persist through, and successfully complete a course. In other words, we are directly impacting that student’s ability to attend, succeed in, and graduate from college. When we talk about OER, we bring two things into focus: that access is critically important to conversations about academic success, and that faculty and other instructional staff can play a critical role in the process of making learning accessible.”

This thought can be extended to learning at all levels. Open education provides access to teachers, and therefore students, to resources and opportunities that will assist them in being successful. Us, as teachers sharing resources openly, do play a critical role in making learning accessible.

In summary, I believe open education can transform education as we know it. There shouldn’t be any reason for a teacher of any grade or subject to not have access to the absolute best resources. These resources should be shared openly, and free of charge. We are always most concerned about the students in our classrooms and buildings, but we can also play a role in improving the education of students outside of our walls and borders.

4 thoughts on “My Musings on Open Education

  1. Chris! I related to so many of your point you made. For starters, I am definitely guilty of purchasing resources from TPT. However, I do my an effort of checking grade alike teachers first for resources, before clicking the purchase button. I also check the “free” box on tpt first because there are many free resources on there as well. Some of the prices on there can be outrageous, however I have found some fantastic resources for under 10.00$ as well. I would say I am a combination of creating my own, asking coworkers, and searching the internet.
    Secondly, I am 100% with you on wanting more black and white outcomes in certain subject areas. I do appreciate our creative and professional freedom for teaching the outcomes, but some are so vague that I don’t even know where to start! I superficially struggle with the middle years social studies outcomes. Concrete resources to support these units would make it much easier as a starting point especially for newer educators. You know its bad when the indicators don’t even help that much. I definitely believe that open education could help alleviate some financial stressors and helpful allocate budget areas to other important sectors in education such as mental health, counselling, EAL, students with all types of disabilities/abilities, and policy making. Thank you for your thoughtful response!

  2. Some school divisions are definitely better than others for creating resources collaboratively and getting teachers on the same page without them having to go everywhere and anywhere trying to find resources to fit the outcomes. Like you said, some outcomes are so open to interpretation like Social Studies for example, that one teacher may think of one thing and another teacher not even touches on the same thing. Have they covered the same outcome? Well technically, but if one is more passionate than another then it’s very different overall. I wish there was more consistency. I know that Manitoba and Ontario have done a great job of creating supporting documents that go with the curriculum so at the very least students are learning along the same lines.

  3. Thanks for the post Chris!
    I love searching for resources on TPT, because it is not a publishing company or creators who have very little knowledge of what works in a real classroom. So on this issue I am torn. I LOVE the idea of open education, but I support teachers trying to make a living by providing up to date resources and activities that are fun and exciting. I appreciate the endless variety, the new digital platforms, the many activities that are made so you can edit and make it your own, the many free resources that teachers put out there, and the ability to search for specific things like bulletin board ideas, math vocabulary, writing process tips and tricks, literacy center activities, and the list goes on – things you cannot find elsewhere in one place. There is so much and you have to look at why teachers did this in the first place – because some teachers are brilliant at creating and adapting and they need the money, especially in many states where they are not paid well, and because there are limited resources out there. The amount of work that some of those resources takes is endless, and you have to look through and preview which are good and which are not. I would gladly pay someone who spent a crazy amount of time on a resource, $3, so I don’t have to! I just cannot see an open education movement where the thousands of teachers that spend thousands of hours creating will say, “Here you go, have it for free.” I had not stepped foot into a teacher store for about 5 years, until this past September. I was reminded how insanely expensive everything is in there, and why I have not purchased anything in there in years. I used to spend a ton on borders, letters, charts, banners, bulletin board sets, and I cringe at knowing what I have spent out of pocket all these years! My point here is, I don’t do that anymore. In a large circle of my friends, we will share everything that we have purchased on TPT even though we are not supposed to, and then will keep sharing all of it. Something really cool that happened to me a couple of years ago – I was talking with another teacher in their classroom and I saw a Grade 1 math colouring activity that I had created about 25 years ago when I taught in Saskatoon. I was like…what the?! I explained how I made that, but how cool that it circulated and was shared and I see it 25 years later!

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