Sharing is Caring: Let’s Discuss Open Education

In our EC&I 831 class this week, we began a discussion of open education and the culture of sharing. The term “open education” is something I have heard many times, but I have never taken the time to really understand the concept or what it means for educators and learners.

“The idea of free and open sharing in education is not new.  In fact, sharing is probably the most basic characteristic of education: education is sharing knowledge, insights and information with others, upon which new knowledge, skills, ideas and understanding can be built.” – via OpenEducationWeek.org

The quote above suggests that sharing in education has always taken place.  We share with our colleagues during breaks in the staff room, lending hard-copy books and resources, professional development sessions and more recently (in the last decade), through online platforms. My classmate Amy points to a great summary of open education through Tony Bates’ blog post, “What do we mean by ‘open’ in education?”.  Furthermore, Bates’ explains that “open learning must be scalable as well as flexible” because in an ideal world, “no-one should be denied access to an open educational program”.  This is the part that makes open education exciting to me as the opportunities to share and collaborate are endless.

Since the beginning of my career, I have searched Pinterest or TeachersPayTeachers for inspiration or resources and I usually try to find something that I can manipulate for my own needs and students.  Turns out what I am really looking for are Open Educational Resources (OERs) that line up with the “5 R’s of Open Education” as described by David Wiley:

OER Infographic: Open Educational Resources can be used for free and without permission.
Image Source: Fort Hayes University OER

A unique aspect of OERs is that the creators “waive some (if not all) of the copyright associated with their works, typically via legal tools like Creative Commons licenses, so others can freely access, reuse, translate, and modify them” (“What are open educational resources”).  I think this is the part where I start to get a little overwhelmed and confused about what is considered fair dealing for educational purposes.

For example, in my division we have professional development groups called a “Community of Practice” (CofP), which are self-selected groups of educators with similar interests.  A couple of years ago I partnered with another colleague to create a CofP specifically for arts education teachers in French immersion schools.  We felt that there was a lack of resources for this particular area of arts education.  We developed a shared Google folder, Pinterest page, YouTube playlist, etc.  But, things started to get a little bit “icky” when people considered scanning in songs from hard copy books into our shared folder.

icky
via GIPHY

Was this okay? Since we were using it for “educational purposes” and not sharing it beyond our group, did it fit into the fair dealing rules?  Correct me if I am wrong, but I think that because the original resource was not created as an OER, it still had traditional copyright rules.  If someone created a collection of French songs through OER Commons, then we would definitely be able to share the work using the 5 R’s of Open Education.

In my own practice, I have created unit and lesson plans for arts education and shared this folder with other teachers.  If the resource is an OER, I include it directly in the folder.  Otherwise, I simply include a resource list to make sure I am complying with copyright guidelines.  This folder was created for me as a place to store my resources, but I made it a shared folder because, why not! I think it is important that we share ideas among educators and stop reinventing the wheel.  Plus, sometimes I get other resources shared back in return!

sharing is caring
via GIPHY

As a side note, for anyone who was in band or choir in elementary and high school, did you ever receive photocopies of music? Entire scores copied for hundreds of students? This definitely does not fall under the “short excerpt” fair dealing guideline.  A conversation about musical score availability online is a whole other world, but I will say that a simple Google search with “(title) pdf free” will pull up just about any piece of music you want. That is why I rely on websites like MusicNotes to make sure I am using authorized music either personally or with students. Other sites like Scribd also have musical scores, but often they look like scans of hard copy books.

As we begin to scratch the surface with the endless possibilities of open education, we should bring the focus to “Why Open Education Matters”.  I love this video from our class since it is short and sweet and highlights how open education helps remove barriers that prevent students from high quality education. Students and teachers can have access to updated resources online.

Why Open Education Matters from Blink Tower on Vimeo.

Open education and a culture of sharing is important to me as an educator because meaningful experiences can take place through collaboration and community.  Why is open education important to you?

Until next time,

@Catherine_Ready

3 thoughts on “Sharing is Caring: Let’s Discuss Open Education

  1. Hi Catherine! Really interesting discussion about sharing in Communities of Practice especially purchased hardcopies of resources. I know this type of thing happens ALL the time in schools but it is certainly “icky” as you say when we start to think about copyright rules/laws. These rules certainly go against the premise of “sharing is caring” and rather incite fear mongering, in my opinion. Keep up the great work!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the comment, Brooke. I also noticed in our COP that there was a generation gap- some teachers only have hard copy resources and others rely on digital resources. For me, I use digital because I want access anywhere, anytime, and I don’t want to retire with a garage full of teaching resources in boxes! Also, if we use OER we are already in the “share” mindset compared to “I paid good money for this book, get your own!”

      Liked by 1 person

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