Take a break from the difficult task of cultivating your own teaching resources and open up to the many possibilities of OER.

OERFinding lesson plans that fit within a teacher’s budget of both time and money can be extremely difficult, especially when compounded with a nonstop workload. These days, it seems many teaching resources charge unreasonable usage fees or utilize restrictive licensing terms. That’s where OER comes in!

Though spending money on pricey teaching resources or investing time into tracking down a source’s approval for distribution of a fascinating lesson plan might be tempting, it’s not always possible. As teachers seek unique and effective lessons, open educational resources (OER) are leading change by lending a helping hand to educators who are in search of fresh, new tools to inspire students.

How do OER work?

Many lesson-plan resources demand payment or bind teachers through copyright agreements. By preventing reproduction of educational materials, these sources limit the ability of teachers to share lessons with students. Unlike other resources, open educational resources give teachers freedom to reference, share, and distribute materials for public use.

OEROther media might require users to abide by a licensing agreement, but teachers can identify OER by searching for specific terms that label items as open for public domain. A perfect example of this type of open access is Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) OpenCourseWare, which states “OCW is a free and open publication of material from thousands of MIT courses, covering the entire MIT curriculum.” Other, minimally restrictive, terms in this type of usage agreement might simply prevent teachers from reusing media for commercial purposes and require attribution.

Where are OER found?

Many sources exist for OER, yet starting at Open Educational Resources Commons is helpful to acclimate teachers with these tools. This is a public collection of educational tools launched in 2007 through the Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education (ISKME). As a tool to promote open access to education, OER Commons doesn’t simply provide resources, it relies on teachers to contribute to its initiative.

Can I pay it forward?

OERTo promote the success of open educational resources, teachers must rely on each other to contribute content for public use. If education professionals only take and use OER media without reciprocating or providing support, the community will fail. Teachers can utilize OER Commons’ authoring tools to create media that can be shared worldwide.

It’s possible to win an exceptional STEM-education grant to fund those brand-spanking new teaching resources, but funds are scarce and many teachers are competing for the same grants. Free teaching resources can be high-quality resources, so don’t discount open educational resources just because they are free. Investigate the possibilities of OER and build upon the work other teachers have done. Then contribute your own amazing resources so other teachers can use them in their own classrooms.

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