By Erika Aparaka

“Choose your own adventure!” That was the title of a recent #GoOpen Mid-Atlantic Convening I attended in New Castle, Delaware. The convening wasn’t about travel planning or those “choose your own adventure” books we all loved as kids; instead, it focused on open educational resources (OER).

OER—which are freely available, high-quality learning materials that can be downloaded, edited and shared—may not seem like they could kick-start an exciting journey, but throughout the convening, teachers shared how these resources have empowered them to chart their own path in better serving their students.

One fifth grade teacher, for example, told me how she is looking to provide OER to her students’ parents to help them get more involved in their children’s learning. And in another session, educators shared how OER give them opportunities to act as collaborators, curators, instructional designers, and leaders in their communities and beyond.

By the end of the convening, I was convinced that OER truly do enable educators to “choose their own adventures” in their classrooms. Here are five ways OER empower teachers in their professional journeys—and help them find new ways to guide their students in their educational journeys, too.

1. Educators know their students best, and OER give educators the choice to adapt full lesson plans or customize assignments that better align with individual student learning styles. And by helping teachers meet the unique needs of every student, OER also help teachers create a level playing field for all of their students.

2. With an increasing number of resources available online to see how other educators have used and evaluated OER, it’s easier than ever for educators to find pre-curated, ready-to-use OER materials that are best for their students. One site I like is OER Commons, a searchable online library of thousands of open resources. Educators can also create their own resources and share them on the site.

3. OER also give educators the choice to author their own content. For example, a teacher could create and curate content that speaks specifically to her students’ cultural backgrounds or relates to their particular interests—whether it’s a recent news story or a niche topic that traditional textbooks don’t cover.

4. Students and educators are able to print, reproduce, and modify OER without being confined by copyright restrictions. And educators can even update OER to make sure students are receiving the most current and accurate information available without waiting for an updated textbook.With OER, educators and students can keep their materials forever and refer back to them in the future—not just for a trial period, digital subscription timeline, or the buying cycle for traditional K-12 textbooks, which in many districts is as long as seven years.

5. With OER, educators and students can keep their materials forever and refer back to them in the future—not just for a trial period, digital subscription timeline, or the buying cycle for traditional K-12 textbooks, which in many districts is as long as seven years.

As educators around the country increasingly use OER, they not only are choosing their own adventures; they also are creating a growing movement in support of freely available, high-quality resources that meet the needs of all students. OER give educators the power to choose, access and create what’s best for their students—so that their students can embark on their own adventures toward future success.

For more, see:

Erika Aparaka is an OER Fellow at the Council of Chief State School Officers. Follow her on Twitter: @eaparaka


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