Information Age Education Blog
Openly Licensed Educational Resources
My 10/21/2015 Google search of the expression Openly Licensed Educational Resources produced more than 640 thousand results. Openly Licensed Educational Resources (usually referred to as OER) are defined as:
Teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others. Open educational resources include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge. [Bold added for emphasis.] See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_and_Flora_Hewlett_Foundation.
Education is both a global and a local endeavor. OER materials are availably globally and can be modified to be suitable to the language, cultural, and other local needs of learners.
Some Recent Good News
A recent Blog entry from the U.S. Federal Government discusses actions being taken at Federal and global levels to make such materials more readily accessible and useful (Blog.ed.gov, 10/19/2015).
The government blog entry begins with a global message:
Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace. —Article 26 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.
This powerful statement is one of the guiding principles of the United Nations:
The term “human rights” was mentioned seven times in the UN's founding Charter, making the promotion and protection of human rights a key purpose and guiding principle of the Organization. In 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights brought human rights into the realm of international law. Since then, the Organization has diligently protected human rights through legal instruments and on-the-ground activities (un.org, n.d.).
The U.S. is helping to facilitate global availability and use of OER materials. Quoting again from the Blog entry (Blog.ed.gov, 10/19/2015):
On September 28, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, U.S. Department of Education, and U.S. Department of State co-hosted an International Open Education Workshop, bringing together 40 civil society and foreign government participants from eight countries to examine existing open education efforts and identify opportunities for future collaboration between government and civil society. This workshop is one of several open education commitments made as part of the Second U.S. Open Government Partnership National Action Plan.
At the workshop, participants shared examples of ways that openly licensed educational materials are being used to solve local education challenges around the world. For example, one participant shared open-source tools that enable offline access to openly licensed educational videos — technology that has supported education for Syrian refugees, inmates in U.S. correctional facilities, and over 2 million other learners from around the world. Open licenses grant anyone the rights to revise, remix, and redistribute these educational materials, so investments in content or tools made by one organization or government can be leveraged by other institutions and used in new ways.
Competition: For Sale or OER
In the U.S. and many other countries, the development and sale of educational materials is a very large business. A considerable amount of OER material competes with materials that are commercially available.
Currently in higher education, there is a substantial movement toward reducing the amount that college students spent on textbooks. Students at that level are expected to have the reading skills needed to successfully draw on a wide range of materials that are available free on the Web.
And, of course, we can look at what the Wikipedia and other Web resources have done to the commercial encyclopedia business!
Two Personal Examples (Full Disclosure)
My Oregon non-profit company, Information Age Education (IAE), makes available a large amount of OER materials. This writing and publishing endeavor is a joyful and rewarding part of my life. It is clear to me that one person or a small group of people can make a significant difference in education. And, of course, it reminds me of one of my favorite quotations:
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” (Margaret Mead; American cultural anthropologist; 1901–1978.)
In addition, I was one of the founding members of the 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation, the Math Learning Center, and I have served on its Board for more than 35 years. The MLC develops and sells K-5 math curriculum materials and provides staff development to support this curriculum. It also provides a variety of free materials including computerized math manipulatives. Hundreds of thousands of copies of the free math manipulatives software have been downloaded (MLC. n.d.).
What You Can Do
All students should be receiving an education that lays a foundation for lifelong learning. A key aspect of this education should be learning to learn using the aids that one has available. While school and formal classes are important learning resources, I believe all students should also be learning to set their own learning goals and to learn on their own with the resources available to them. Thus, nowadays, all students should be learning to make use of the free and/or inexpensive learning aids available on the Web and elsewhere.
References and Resources
Blog.ed.org (10/19/2015). Openly licensed educational resources: Providing equitable access to education for all learners. Retrieved 10/21/2015 from http://blog.ed.gov/2015/10/openly-licensed-educational-resources-providing-equitable-access-to-education-for-all-learners/.
MLC (n.d.). Math manipulatives. Math Learning Center. Retrieved 10/21/2015 from http://www.mathlearningcenter.org/blog/topic/math-manipulatives.
Moursund, D. (8/26/2015). Reinventing our educational system. IAE Blog. Retrieved 10/21/2015 from http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/entry/reinventing-our-educational-system.html.
Moursund, D. (4/19/2015). Educating students for their future. IAE Blog. Retrieved 10/21/2015 from http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/entry/preparing-students-for-their-futures.html.
Moursund, D. (2015). Information underload and overload. IAE-pedia. Retrieved 10/21/2015 from http://iae-pedia.org/Information_Underload_and_Overload.
Moursund, D. (2015). Open content libraries. IAE-pedia. Retrieved 10/21/2015 from http://iae-pedia.org/Open_Content_Libraries.
Moursund, D., & Sylwester, R., eds. (10/9/2015). Validity and credibility of information. Eugene, OR: Information Age Education. Download a free Microsoft Word file from http://i-a-e.org/downloads/free-ebooks-by-dave-moursund/275-validity-and-credibility-of-information/file.html. Download a free PDF file from http://i-a-e.org/downloads/free-ebooks-by-dave-moursund/277-validity-and-credibility-of-information-2/file.html.
Nunley, K. (November, 2011). Have schools become historical museums? IAE Newsletter. Retrieved 10/21/2015 from http://i-a-e.org/newsletters/IAE-Newsletter-2011-78.html.
Un.org (n.d.). United Nations. Retrieved 01/21/2015 from http://www.un.org/en/sections/what-we-do/protect-human-rights/index.html.
Nagel, David (10/22/2015). Penn State technology allows faculty and students to build their own textbooks from OER. THE Journal. Retrieved 10/23/2015 from https://thejournal.com/articles/2015/10/22/penn-state-technology-allows-faculty-and-students-to-build-their-own-textbooks-from-oer.aspx. Quoting from the article:
Penn State researchers have been piloting a technology that allows faculty (and students) to build e-textbooks algorithmically using keywords to gather together materials from open resources.
The tool, called BBookX, lets users generate textbooks chapter by chapter, adding materials by using keywords to find relevant resources, which can then be culled and organized, even edited by the user. Keywords are used to find an initial set of resources; adding the most relevant resources to a chapter then allows the algorithm to refine results for additional materials. Users can rearrange the materials within a chapter or reorganize entire chapters on the fly through a click-and-drag interface.