Oh Where (OER) Oh Where (OER)

This week was the OpenEd Conference in Utah. Last year I remember watching Gardner Campbell’s keynote and thinking “Oh man, another “Bag of Gold story” and that it was another idea that would take me a long time to figure out. He talks about all this academic stuff we call education and weaves thought it these strange stories and analogies and media and people I have never heard of. He loves to wonder and yearn. I FEEL the story he tells. I think I understand it. I know it is the right place to go. And be. Or at the very least, I am learning how to be these things.

This year there were other keynotes and some learning opportunities. For us, all these recorded sessions. There certainly were a few of the “That was not it, not it at all,” moments.

I watched the tweets pass by and read about some projects, content about presentations, and pondering by participants about what the heck is this whole OER thing and how do we do it?

We don’t “do” it. We must “be” it. That is, in part, what I learned. It is a process of becoming rather than a “doing” as a final act. What we must be, is a doer of steps in the right direction. That will take effort, and time, and danger, and the willingness to let go of some of the things we hold tightly.

Here are the tweets.

So how do we be it? Be open? Is that just too simple to adapt to the very tricky and deeply thoughtful world of academia? Probably. We will out-think ourselves into Bigger Books that cost More Money because they are Full Color and have Thousands of Footnotes. I am not making fun of footnotes or well-crafted images, but you know that big ol’ text book. The one that you only use half of (or slightly more) and the students think must be full of all the things they need because it cost $183.99 and weights seven pounds. But that book problem, that is just a small piece of the OER yearning.

I know I have made reference to this before, but I’ll give it a short go again. When I was given a high school classroom it came with old and worn posters of all kinds thumb tacked to the wall and a file cabinet brimming with copies of “handouts.” Lots and lots of stuff. So much stuff that I never, even after ten years, saw all of it primarily because most of the stuff was tragically faded and skewed. I must have wondered how long it had been there. Just as the person who inherited the classroom from me probably thought after peering into the cabinet drawers. Where does the notion of OER fit into that story?

I do not want to reinvent the wheel, but I do want to make MY wheel. My wheel is all I really do as a teacher. I craft the events and things that we call school. I do that several ways. Like the living room in my home I choose what goes where. I create a thing called ownership. I craft my space. No doubt I used the chairs and tables others have made, but I organize them myself. And I improve them I yearn for it to FEEL like what I want to be. That is how I see classrooms. Both the physical ones and the digital ones. And I do not want those faded handouts in my space.

How do we craft our spaces? Certainly we don’t let others do it for us! Crafting space is our business.

Our colleagues in Maricopa are going after the OER Book part in a big way. They are launching the Maricopa Millions Project that hopes to save students five million dollars in five years. They are being open where the books are concerned and doing the work of open living.

“The project includes a strategic, sustainable OER infrastructure consisting of building awareness, professional development opportunities for faculty, technical support, marketing, and technical structure. The project will help create a culture that actively encourages, supports, and sustains the use of OER for all course levels across all ten colleges. The course materials will be a mix and adaptation of existing OER course materials as well as development of new content.”

Here is a presentation by Lisa Young from the OpenEd13 conference.

That is it. That is closer to being open and yearning to want to use the things we are given and the things we create in a way that is socially and morally correct.

What will we do here at YC to share our amazing resources and live more openly? We have some great models to look at right here. Kelly Trainor and others use the web to share the content they create. That’s good. We have teachers who are very critical of the big publishers and the bookstore pricing. They are writing their own books or using alternative sources. We are opening up in some ways.

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