This past week was a new teacher in my school asked if I could help out with his Theory of Fight unit in Grade 6 Science. I was excited to lend a hand talking about something that I have some experience with. Although I don’t do a lot of flying anymore, it used to be a big part of my life. After talking to him about how I would approach this unit and looking for a few resources, I thought it would be a great opportunity to explore some of these OER sites.
Within an hour we had searched through several of the sites and put together a resource list based on some ideas I had and connections to curriculum outcomes. Many of the sites I looked at were easy to navigate and I was able to find relevant lessons and resources for the flight unit. I believe these are very valuable resources especially when used in conjunction with one another. I was able to build a nearly complete unit of study from nothing but these OER sites, youtube and a few other internet searches when specific information was needed to supplement info found on ck12 Foundation or other sites on the list provided.
OER education is something that I think most educators find useful. Resources are often expensive or unavailable so it often falls on teachers to find resources that connect to the curriculum while flowing in a way that allows for some personal creativity. After chatting with other teachers, it seems that they share my sentiments, they spend far to much time searching for usable resources that are cost effective and fit into Canadian content. If more places adopted OER resources, we would see an increase in both content and usability.
I really like the idea of some of these OER sites that allow users to edit or upload their own content. I think this is a great idea and would help create a sense of collegiality that could lead to a society where open collaboration is a more common goal. With that comes some challenges. When you have a site that encourages people to edit and upload their own content, there will be a need to fact check things. This type of infrastructure would have a cost, which makes it difficult to be a free resource. This is where I think sites like teachers pay teachers are terrific. You have talented people creating resources that teachers can view and purchase. The monetary value of these lesson/unit plans encourages the buyer to use due diligence to critically analyze before purchase. The cost of these lessons/units are reasonable enough that the teachers/schools purchasing them can do so and stay within budget constraints. However, this cost benefit is also encouraging talented people to create better than average unit plans, which is in turn putting better resources in our classrooms. This is a win/win situation in my mind.
Supporting these websites and increasing the number of users is likely the best way to help these types of resources improve. As these become more mainstream and expand their user base they will also increase their funding and ability to maintain their sites.
Increasing OER raises another interesting question, if information is available freely online how long will schools, especially Universities stay open? There will always be a need for teachers, and education but what will it look like in the future. I believe that our economy will the brick and mortar schools open for the foreseeable future. Our modern society forces most families to be duel income, so the brick and mortar school is needed as lack of supervision in a “home school”, wouldn’t be realistic in most cases. That being said; post secondary education would be an easy transition to become OER, the people that want to learn will continue to do so. The only problem being, in a competitive job market, how do you prove you have the required education to apply for a job. The entire structure of post secondary education would be re-imagined and many economic barriers could be knocked down. If education was available to everyone that wanted it, and not just to those that could afford it… A lot could change.
This is only a rough document, but this is a good start on a flight unit resource list featuring many of the sites on the list provided that you are welcome to have/edit or share with others.