OER and paid content learn to play nicely

The digital materials school playground is one of uneasiness, as traditional paid resources and Open Educational Resources (OER) figure out how to play nicely together. But they keep encountering three hazards: platforms, sustainability, even definitions.

Over at EdSurge, I examine each of these issues with experts who have current roles or backgrounds in traditional publishing, OER advocacy and edtech software. The upshot: the two forms of digital instructional content are getting closer to cooperating in schools, but in the near term playtime may be a bit unruly.

500px-OER_Logo.svgThis column has its roots in the opening keynote session I led at the 2014 Content in Context conference, an annual industry event hosted by the Association of American Publishers preK-12 Learning Group (formerly the Association of Educational Publishers).

As with most sessions I moderate, I eschew PowerPoint. It makes for a much livelier session, but also means I have to record — and transcribe — the proceedings if I plan to do anything with the results later. (I recommend the Tascam DR-40 digital audio recorder, by the way: adjustable microphones, rugged and hand-held.)

So is OER a threat or an opportunity for traditional education companies? A few transcribed quotes that didn’t make it into the finished post:

Dan Caton, former president of Pearson Learning Group and McGraw-Hill School Education, and now president of Wittel/Morris Strategic Consulting: “For core curriculum, if the Open Educational Resources community gets its act together, it’s a tremendous threat” to traditional publishers.“It’s surprisingly good content … sometimes.” And in its current state, as “supplemental content, it’s a great opportunity for everyone.”

Tim Hudson, senior director of curriculum design for DreamBox Learning and a former math teacher:  Companies need to ask themselves, “What do you bring to your classroom that teachers can’t get for free on the Internet? … When we piece together either print resources or digital resources, we wrongly think about learning as incrementally just going through a series of activities.”

Tom Woodward, former director of instructional technology with Henrico County Public Schools in Virginia, now at Virginia Commonwealth University:  With OER and traditional publisher content, “There’s a large continuum with lots of gray in between.” For companies looking at integrating the two, “There’s lots of opportunity, because this is a very difficult thing to do.”

And one closing note: This post marks my final regular column for EdSurge. Matters of both time and focus require me to step back from my writing sideline somewhat. But there’s an EdSurge archive of my contributions to date.

Read, “The unruly playground: free OER and paid digital materials,” at EdSurge.