You’ve Got a Way to Keep Me On Your Side, You Give Me Cause for OER That I Can’t Hide…

A Deeper Look Into OER Commons

Photo by OER Commons

First Thoughts on OER Commons

Similar to a lot of my course peers, I too researched more into the OER Commons (OER means Open Educational Resources). Why did I choose this one you ask? Well, for starters Alec showed it to us in class the other night and it was interesting to me as I have never heard of it before. Before actually researching anything, I noticed that the home page looks professional, neat, easy to navigate and the colours really hooked me. So, at first glance it looks good… hopefully, that saying does not bite me in the tuchus later on… never judge a book by its cover, but I definitely am.

Search: Flight…Hmm… Principles of Flight?

So let’s jump right into it over here. I started with a super basic search, “flight” without any extra criteria. Just as a thought, a bunch of generic flight websites and information came up without lesson plans or anything that I could really take and easily apply to my Grade 6 science unit. Just as using Google though, this is what I expected.

close up shot of a person holding an airplane toy
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I then added “flight, physical science, and middle school” to my search. This was a bit better. It brought up more information that a Grade 6 student would be able to understand on their own but to tell you the truth I was a bit disappointed. I thought there would be an abundant amount of stuff out there that I would be able to use and implement easily as I can sometimes do with Teacher’s Pay Teachers. Before giving up and throwing the towel in for easy-to-implement content for the classroom (yes, sometimes a tired teacher is in search of something quick), I did an advanced search. It came up with a ton of different search criteria to break it down further. This was impressive. However, what I noticed was that even with more specific criteria and adding “principles of” to flight, it still didn’t come up with the search results I thought it would have. So before going further into this one topic, I wanted to try a few different searches before a came up with a little list of some of the pros and cons of using OER Commons.

Pros of OER Commons

To ever negative, there is a positive. I came up with a quick list of some of the positive aspects I noticed with OER Commons.

crop young woman writing schedule in diary on sofa
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  • Well laid out—I like the look of things. The colours and fonts are aesthetically appealing, and the search bars are easy to find and straightforward to type in.
  • Many options to search including an advanced search—there are many different ways to break down what you are looking for using the site. If you can’t find what you are looking for in the basic search bar, much like Google, you can do an advanced search which is very helpful.
  • Allows authors from anywhere and everywhere to contribute—this isn’t only accessible to one population or demographic, and everyone can access, contribute, use and share.
  • Ability to connect to Google Classroom—some of the lessons have a quick tab on the side to add the resource to Google Classroom easily.
  • Ease to use toolbar with sharing, downloading and printing options—the toolbar on the side of the lesson has many options at your fingertips to download, print, share, etc. This is helpful so that you do not have to search around to find the print button or any of the other command buttons.
  • Some have lesson plans create with supplemental resources—like the Writing Lessons I came across, there are 6 slides each with multiple resources included. Some of the additional resources included are as follows:

Cons of OER Commons

Like I said before, all positives come with something not as great. Without really digging too far into the website, I came up with a few things I noticed don’t work as well for me.

man person people coffee
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  • Lacked connections to Canadian Curriculum—I couldn’t search any Canadian curriculums, and there wasn’t a ton of Canadian content or content published by Canadians.
  • Needs to have more specific search criteria to come up with usable resources for elementary school—this can be totally overwhelming and frustrating. When you’re looking for content you want to find a glimmer early on in your search to get you to keep going. When you’re not finding that glimmer it’s frustrating and annoying when you are already pressed for time. This was something that was throwing me off early on when using the website and to be honest it was a major let down for me.
  • Not a ton of quality resources that can easily be applied—I get that people are sharing from the goodness of their hearts, but there isn’t a ton out there for elementary aged students. I don’t know the higher ed or the secondary curriculums so I can’t speak to that. But for elementary, it took a lot of effort to find things that would apply.
  • Tricky to get used to and it takes time—as I get older, I realize that timing is key when you are balancing many plates on one tray. Time is important to me, and sometimes I can look past taking time to get used to something if I know that there is light at the end of the tunnel. I wasn’t really able to find the light on this one.

Some Overall Thoughts

To be completely honest, I can’t see myself jumping head over heels into this site right off the hop. Do I think that it’s a great idea? For sure I do. I also think that the more people contribute to it, the better it will get. But I can’t see myself totally shunning TPT right now either. When I am in a pinch or haven’t taught a certain subject or grade before, I need something that works, that’s quick, has the supplemental resources I need and that gives me some sanity and grace when learning.

portrait photo of woman in red top wearing black framed eyeglasses standing in front of white background thinking
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

I wonder if there is someone brave enough, or well-rounded enough in this subject matter to start a Saskatchewan-based OER website. I would think that this would be a good thing for the STF to take on, but I know it’s not really reasonable to ask either. If more people were contributing around the same curriculums, it would make it more worthwhile for me to dive in, contribute, use, and share.

Maybe I would have seen this website through a better lens if I wasn’t feeling as tired, or like my plates were too full. Maybe I would have been more open-minded and more willing to see the benefits to outweigh the downfalls if I had researched this earlier on in the semester when I was still feeling bright-eyed and bushy-tailed in more aspects of my life.

How Do You Feel?

Especially on this post, I feel like I need more feedback. I was late to the game getting this post going as my kiddo spent some time in the ER and we’ve been trying to manage a sick toddler. Therefore, I’d love to hear from you. Feel free to answer one or more of my prompting questions, a general post, or even like my page so that I know I have hit the mark on something.

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  1. Have I totally lost the mark on this one?
  2. Have you tried OER Commons? If so, what did you think?
  3. Are you totally on board with OER and ditching TPT? Trying a combination of both, and are sticking to TPT?
  4. Do you think Saskatchewan educators would jump on the chance to create an OER specific to educators in Saskatchewan?
  5. If there was an OER specific to Saskatchewan educators, would you contribute, use it, a combination of both, or avoid it like no tomorrow?
  6. What OER did you explore this week? If you could summarize your experience in three or less sentences, what would say?

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