Open Educational Resources

tsuWell my blog is going out a little late this week, but in my defense- seven days is far too short a time to review even a small part of the Open Educational Resources available on the internet. Never mind drinking from the firehose, browsing OERs is like trying to take a sip from a Tsunami. I had no idea of the volume of materials that were available, although I probably should have guessed. I have come to rely heavily on the internet for my teaching materials and no matter how esoteric my request, “translation reflection rotation game”, the internet has always delivered- see 
transtar. Today I will talk about two of the resources I looked at CK12.org and Ted Ed.

As I mentioned previously in a google+ community post, I was underwhelmed by my first exposure to the Ck12.org. It was only after reading Karen Gadowsky’s blog post on the site that I decided to re-visit it and give it a closer look. I am glad that I did.

On my first visit I looked almost exclusively at the elementary math curriculum. I watched a number of screencasts that seemed to completely overlook the actual TEACHING of the concept and instead focused on demonstrating the procedure of writing down the solution. You do this then you do this and then you do this. These are not really useful instructions for someone who is wondering what, when and why they are supposed to do something. Have a look at this video here and ask yourself, if I didn’t know how to do this already would this video help me learn. I believe the answer is no. These are a poor version of the Khan Academy videos.

However, upon revisiting the site I looked at some of the resources for writing and here I was more than a little impressed. I looked at a number of lessons in their common sense composition guide and I will most definitely be using this, or a modified version of this, in my classroom next year. It’s certainly as good as many of the guides that are for sale it just lacks some accompanying exercises. Overall, the site is a work in progress.

I have long been a fan of Ted talks, but I wasn’t really aware of Ted Ed until I saw it on the list of resources. I took the tour and did a search of a half dozen random topics from Extreme Environments to Canadian parliamentary democracy. I wasn’t disappointed by what I found. Most of the topics I looked at had videos available and more than half had decent lessons to accompany the videos. It’s clear however that the Ted Ed project is still in its infancy. It’s equally obvious that the potential for this site is virtually unlimited- assuming that teachers embrace this opportunity.

This raises an interesting question however. By inviting educators to create lessons around searchable Youtube content, it is a matter of time before most if not all educational content has an accompanying video. On the one hand this is a very exciting development, but as a fan of the written word, I am more than a little concerned about what this means in the long run for literacy. I would suggest that videos do not allow students the same ability to absorb and reflect upon information they receive as they have when they are reading a book. It’s exciting, but educators must be careful not to become over reliant on videos as I would suggest that the most complex and abstract subjects of study are poorly suited to be explained visually. If we condition children to believe that everything can be learned easily by watching a video or two, we will doing them a great disservice.

Overall, it was an interesting week of exploring, but I feel like I have barely scratched the surface of the materials out there. I’m getting the feeling that it is going to be a busy summer. What I am most excited about now however is putting together some materials of my own- starting with a unit of short stories for my Grade 6/7 class in the fall. I will most certainly share it once it’s done.

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