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The arguments for jumping on the open educational resource (OER) bandwagon are convincing.
For one, they bring down the high cost of textbooks, from as much as $150 per book per student to $0. Consider this impact in specialty subjects like music and art, where you could access scores and techniques at no charge. And because the resources are stored in the cloud and updated continually, you can trust their permanence more than print materials or files stored on your hard drive backup.
OERs can also cut down on your own teaching prep time. Because they are licensed to allow colleagues to share content, it saves you the hassle of tracking down the owner for permission. And when you create and share your own OER lessons, you get access to peer review and critical feedback that will sharpen your teaching skills.
With the full support of the U.S. Department of Education, the #GoOpen movement has really taken flight with startups and content providers scrambling to put their best face forward. Edmodo recently entered the space with Edmodo Spotlight focusing on OER, and there are global players like TES, and the upcoming Amazon Education platform that is sure to play a big role in providing lots of high quality content to enhance learning and teaching in and out of the classroom.
At the end of the day, the idea of open education resources is an empowering one. Teachers create and find content instead of being resigned to use what content come is the textbook. They are now in command and can chose from a much larger and richer landscape of content.
For Adam Bellow, former classroom teacher and founder of eduClipper.net, the magic lies in the fact that OER is as broad an acronym as you can imagine — and that’s on purpose. “The landscape has no shortage of content,” Bellow said. “The trick now is finding the right content for you and your students — and if that doesn’t exist, there is an opportunity to create content to help others learn.”
In fact, you’re probably already well acquainted with many of these top OER sites:
YouTube. Sure, it may not be what first comes to mind in education, but when Bellow has a question or problem, it is one of the first OER libraries he checks. For instance, his family misplaced their Nest thermostat face during a remodel and couldn't turn on the heat. After looking for it for several hours, he turned to the internet for a way to connect the wires and force heat without the thermostat device. “Sure enough, several YouTube experts were there to save the day,” he said. “We restored heat by simply following the directions in the video. And for anyone who wants to know, I had cleverly hidden the Nest device in my dresser drawer so I wouldn't lose it. We found it a few days later.”
Twitter. By that same token, connected educators on Twitter do an awesome job of sharing resources with the world. Some of Bellow’s favorite hashtags for finding OERs are #GoOpen and #OER.
ISTE. Count this site among Bellow’s favorite go-to places for high-quality content to help teachers. The EdTekHub, in particular, specializes in how-to content and resources, written by educators for educators, that leaders and teachers can use right away.
Education blogs. There are a million of these out there, and many bloggers make it their business to share their favorite educational content with the world. Some of our favorite places to find a variety of OERs are Edutopia, Edudemic, Teaching That Makes Sense, Buck Institute for Education and ISTE Connects.
Khan Academy. Their slogan says it all: “You can learn anything. For free. For everyone. Forever.” Best known for its tutorial videos, Khan also has dashboards to track mastery and turn learning into a game among users.
CK-12. A world of simulations, statistics and interaction for math, English and history are at teachers’ fingertips.
CC Search. The Creative Commons search helps you find images from a variety of major sources — Google Image, Flickr, Pixabay, Open Clip Art Library, Wikimedia Commons — to use in your lessons.
Europeana. Far cheaper than an international field trip, this free website brings the digital resources of Europe’s museums, libraries, archives and audiovisual collections — including paintings, drawings, maps, photos and pictures of museum objects — to your classroom. Just be aware, however, that not every image is open source, so due diligence is the watchword.
TED. You know those inspirational videos you enjoy during your downtime? You can use them in your classroom too.
Jamendo. Imagine this: more than 350,000 royalty-free music tracks licensed under Creative Commons, all available for streaming and unlimited download without ads. And you can find similar music resources at SoundCloud and Free Music Archive. Rock on.
Orange Grove Digital Repository. You can turn to this Florida-based site to search for, use, remix, share and contribute a wide range of K-12 and postsecondary resources. Even better news: You can integrate this repository with your learning management system.