Sunday, March 5, 2017

Why I'm Giving Away My Classroom. #GoOpen #Don'tBeGollum

This is the first of two posts about the #GoOpen movement.  This post provides some background of OER and why I'm smitten with them.  In part two, I will provide some key resources for those wanting to get started in their classroom, building, or district.

Okay, so I realize that the closer we get to summer, the more the title of this post might resonate with many teachers, but I promise I'm not planning on abandoning my 7th graders in a parking lot with a sign saying "Free to a good home"!

I wanted to take the opportunity to explain why I love the OER movement and why I'm giving my best assignments, projects, slideshows, and primary and secondary source resources to anyone interested...for free.

Why am I sharing what I've worked so hard on to create and assemble?  Because it's the 21st century, because I care about giving students the best education I can, because people more talented than me are doing it, because I want to expand my PLN, because I hope you will share your best resources with me...should I continue?  If we truly see student success as our goal, we've got to help each other out and stop hiding our best work in a file cabinet or forcing other teachers to buy it online.  We're in this together.  #Don'tBeGollum.

What is the Open Movement? #GoOpen
Haven't heard of OER?  Well, OER stands for Open Educational Resources, which are educational materials that are free to use. Open sources are distributed by individuals and organizations that choose to share their work with few, if any, limitations on use and reuse under Creative Commons or GNU licenses.  Instead of being limited to costly, often outdated, textbooks and pricey text-based supplies and digital subscriptions, the open movement encourages the use of OER collected from a variety of digital sources and curated for the best possible benefit in your personal classroom.

In the fields of social studies and history we've been spoiled with a rich collection of primary sources available from some outstanding institutions and organizations, many of which offer lesson plans and question sets for a large number of sources they share.  The best part?  It's all free!  No books to buy, no subscriptions, no trial offers, and no relying solely on the textbooks in our rooms.  Now, I know that online sources are nothing new and that in itself is far from amazing.  What is amazing is the change the variety and frequency of these online sources is making in our classrooms.  We are seeing a shift in teaching as educators begin to view themselves more as curators of information rather than the sole holders of knowledge.  These education-curators, I believe, are the ones able to ride the lightning of the mass of information online and make it work for themselves and their students.

Why do I support the Open Movement?
The open movement in education has benefited my students and myself, both as an educator and learner.  I went into debt to go to a great university where I received an outstanding education. However, because my university was privately-funded and served less students than many state colleges, many departments did not contain the number of faculty serving larger schools.  I supplemented courses not offered by seeking out reading lists, course syllabi, and lectures from other schools across the country that made their resources available online.  I graduated as the MOOC craze began to spread and tried out a few in areas I would never have taken when I was paying tuition for a history degree (physics, criminal psychology, Shakespeare).

A quick internet search yields hundreds of statistics about the increasing unavailability of a college education to today's kids because of the sheer cost.  Part of the attraction of MOOC's is the possibility of providing a free, quality education.  Although the MOOC model has been criticized in the world of higher education and, I agree, it's far from perfect, but the idea is incredible: take the best resources available from a variety of places and combine them to benefit as many students as possible.  What a great idea for elementary and secondary education.

So, in appreciation of those individuals and institutions that have shared their knowledge and collections willingly, and in the spirit of reciprocation, I am making my classroom accessible to anyone interested.

I'm currently creating an online hub for the resources I create, borrow, and alter to fit my curriculum (American History from the Pre-Columbian Americas to the first presidency).  My curriculum is always a work in progress and I acknowledge the debt I owe to institutions like the Library of Congress, the Digital Public Library of America, SHEG, and Gilder Lehrman for providing awesome resources.  I do hope that interested teachers will borrow, modify, and use materials I have created and accumulated to supplement their instruction.  I also hope I can encourage teachers to share their resources as well.

Glad to be starting the #GoOpen journey and happy to have you along for the ride.

Let's connect on Twitter: @theshoe_CMS

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