The GoOpen initiative: Bringing OER to public schools in the US
In October 2015, the US Dept. of Education announced the GoOpen Initiative , which is designed to increase the use of open educational resources (OERs) in public schools. In fact, all learning material created with their grant funds must now have an open license.
Several companies are assisting this initiative.
- Amazon is providing the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Cloud for two years to every US school district. This is the infrastructure for the Dept. of Education’s Learning Registry .
- Microsoft is indexing the content in the Learning Registry, so that people can find resources easily. Microsoft is creating a special application to do the indexing work. They are also beefing up the features to their Docs.com, Sway, and OneNote Class Notebook to help teachers share, reuse, and remix resources.
- Creative Commons will be leading workshops around the country to help the leaders in our school districts understand how to replace their older licensed resources with the newer openly licensed ones.
As a start, 10 school districts accepted the initial challenge to exchange at least one licensed textbook with an openly licensed one, and those districts will serve as mentors for others. Now, only 6 months later, these are the districts who have taken the Future Ready pledge:
A look at one school district
Liberty Public Schools in Liberty, Missouri, is one of the 10 school districts leading the way. They recently gave a presentation which included videos of two faculty members discussing their experiences so far.
Here’s David Fulkerson, a high school Social Studies teacher, discussing how OER affects teachers’ time. It takes time to curate the material — how are they addressing this?
And here’s Dr. Eric Langhorst, an 8th grade History teacher, discussing funding and the teachers’ involvement in creating the curricula.
Liberty Public Schools also is one of the first districts to use Amazon’s Inspire platform, which is in beta testing now.
The Inspire platform
- The interface is similar to the Amazon shopping site, so it will be easy for people to use.
- You can search and filter search results, and you can add ratings and reviews.
- Educators can self-publish their resources to the site.
- It is a free, open platform for free resources.
If it’s free, how is this a sustainable project for Amazon? Andrew Joseph, Vice President of Strategic Relations at Amazon Education, says this:
“Amazon is a big commercial entity and we have to make this sustainable over time. This piece we have committed to making absolutely free forever. We’re not going to lock the content up. We promised we won’t put a pay wall in front of it.”
He further added that Amazon Education hasn’t figured out all the financial details yet, but they might want to connect users who access the OER with non-free resources. This is similar to what they do now on the Amazon site, making suggestions based on what you’ve viewed and purchased. Is this a good thing? Over on Inside Higher Ed, Matt Reed discusses just this question . I agree with one of his concluding remarks: “Getting students excited about a subject is a feature, not a bug. If a student in my poli sci class gets so taken with a subject that she starts reading about it on her own, I consider that a win. If Amazon is where she finds subsequent books, well, so be it. I’ve certainly done the same.”