I presented a keynote a couple weeks ago on Open Education. In talking about the reasons for open ed, I make the following points:

  • We must differentiate instruction if we are going to engage and reach students who have increasingly diverse backgrounds, skills, and interests.
  • Textbooks are not an effective tool for differentiating (or engaging) students.
  • Technology can be a better tool, but high quality content is required for effective integration.
  • There is a huge industry that has grown up around the development and adoption of textbooks. There is a lot of money invested in this industry, and it is not likely to change, regardless of the benefits to learning.
  • Open educational resources (OER) provide a new approach to this challenge.

So after my presentation, a very excited teacher came up to me and said, “I’ve done just what you’ve said! I’ve thrown out our textbooks!” (He told me later that they actually sold their textbooks. Great idea for a fund-raiser!)

He then went out to his car and brought back the materials he’s developed to share with me. He is a history teacher and has developed a very innovative system that he calls the “dynamic classroom.” It involves binders that the kids construct over the course of the year, bringing together predictable learning routines, effective strategies, and hands on activities.

What most struck me in talking to this gentleman was 1.) his passion for his subject matter and for teaching, 2.) how much personal time and effort he’s put into his teaching, and 3.) the results he’s gotten with his students.

Then I started thinking about the potential of this approach. The materials appeared to be perfectly suited to building a wiki. I began imagining each kid with a $300 laptop building interactive web sites instead of binders. The possibilities are rich. Then I started thinking about this project built as an open-licensed curriculum. Everyone could benefit from the work this industrious teacher has done.

I know that there are teachers all over the world doing creative things like this, prompting their students to have rich learning experiences. These teachers know more about their content and engaging kids than most textbook publishers do. I think that most of these teachers are willing to share.

This is the potential of Open Education.
Image courtesy of Alexander Baxevanis.

Throwing out the textbooks
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