Imagine a world where all the teaching resources you need – lesson plans, handouts, textbooks, and more – are freely available for you to use and modify without restriction. Wayne Mackintosh wants to make it happen… but he needs your help.
As a teacher, I find it difficult to use someone else’s lesson plan or teaching materials. I want to have the freedom to adapt and modify the materials to suite my own teaching style.
There are ‘no-cost’ resources available online but many have copyright and usage restrictions. That’s why I’m supporting Open Educational Resources (OER) and specifically an OER initiative here in New Zealand.
New Zealand’s OER initiative is an online community whose aim is to create an education commons; these are resources which are collectively shared by the community. What that means is that they are offered freely and openly for anyone to use and, under some licences, to alter, improve and redistribute. These materials can include the likes of:
– Learning content: full courses, course materials, content modules, learning objects, collections, and journals;
– Tools: software to support the creation, delivery, use and improvement of open learning content, including searching and organisation of content, content and learning management systems, content development tools, and online learning communities; and
– Implementation resources: intellectual property licences to promote open publishing of materials, design-principles, and localisation of content.
What OER materials do is provide real freedom to educators because they are stored in formats using Creative Commons licences that let teachers adapt and modify them to suit the needs of their own teaching style and student context. It’s a sustainable and renewable resource. So, I believe that it’s appropriate that in Aotearoa, internationally renowned for its clean-green image, we’ve launched a national collaboration to establish an open content commons for New Zealand schools.
Welcome to OERNZ
Recently we started OERNZ (http://wikieducator.org/OERNZ), a national OER collaboration here in New Zealand. It’s a national repository of free content resources developed by Kiwi teachers for Kiwi teachers – and we’re already seeing material being added.
The project is being supported by the Ministry of Education and WikiEducator (wikieducator.org), one of the world’s fastest growing wiki projects, where teachers can collaborate on creating and reusing educational materials. The Ministry is contributing funding for WikiEducator to provide free training for New Zealand teachers, as well as seed funding to develop a series of OER exemplars, which will be mapped to the curriculum. It’s also providing funding to improve usability of these technologies, such as an embedded WYSIWYG editor as an alternative to authoring using wiki syntax.
Accessible within approved LMS
OERNZ is collaborating with the approved LMS vendors to easily reference and incorporate OER into the preferred learning environment of individual schools.
“We see WikiEducator as a ‘commons’ for teacher-created content, especially for the increasing number of schools using LMS,” said Paul Seiler, who’s leading the Ministry’s work on managed learning environments. “We don’t want to see this content locked up – technically and legally – in the LMS and inaccessible to other teachers (with or without the same LMS). Integration will soon allow content from WikiEducator to be used within a LMS, and LMS content to be published freely to WikiEducator. This is an improvement for teachers using an LMS but the value is also there for people without one, as the wiki can be accessed with only a Web browser.”
You can get involved
If you’d like to get involved – or just find out a little more – you can join the OERNZ mailing list (http://groups.google.co.nz/group/oernz) or one of our planning teams. You can also sign up for one of the free online training sessions (http://wikieducator.org/OERNZ) or even consider becoming a WikiAmbassador for your school!
When you’re ready, you may be interested in launching a free portal page in WikiEducator for your school to profile your OER work. Albany Senior High School, Diocesan School for Girls, Papanui High School, Maranatha Christian School, and Warrington School have already started their portal pages. I’m inspired by these and other New Zealand educators who are taking up the digital challenge of returning to the core values of education, namely to share knowledge freely. I hope you will be, too. Join us at OERNZ and help share in all our future success.
Dr Wayne Mackintosh is founding Director of the OER Foundation, an international non-profit group based at Otago Polytechnic.
This article is published under the NZ Creative Commons BY licence, which means anyone can distribute, edit, use or build on it – even commercially – as long as they credit the source.
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