Open Educational Resources (OE) are free, legally available resources for learning and teaching, which represent a major paradigm change in the way that we learn. OERs empower teachers to use technology to their advantage – to design and deliver quality learning experiences. This means that teachers can use electronic resources that can be downloaded or shared with other teachers and students. It also means that online courses and e-mail newsletters can be sent to the entire classroom.
For teachers, using OER means that you don’t have to set yourself up as an authority on a subject; rather, you are able to use technology as a support for your teaching. You are not expected to know all the answers – rather, you must demonstrate your understanding of science to your students. You are not asked to reinvent the wheel; rather, what you do is use the tools and content from science and engineering journals, along with other related materials, to help your students develop and understand concept concepts. This helps them learn science at its most fundamental level. Open educational resources to support this approach by allowing you to demonstrate and explain the scientific concepts in a clear and concise way.
Another way in which these new open educational resources benefit science learning is that they allow a broad range of topics – both general and specialist – to be covered. In addition, online educators are no longer tied to a set of rigid educational guidelines that need to be adhered to. There are some established criteria for deciding which science topics are suitable for use in virtual meetups. For example, NSTA launched the National Standards for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (NSTAP) in 2007 to establish the basic criteria for measuring the quality of science teaching across the country.
There are a wide range of websites and blog posts dedicated to discussing, debating and reviewing the NSTA. The science curriculum is subject to change on a regular basis, with the review and approval of the NSTA leading the way. However, it’s interesting to see how open discussions are dominated by arguments about the effectiveness of NSTA and the need for alternatives to the NSTA. The fact that a lot of bloggers and social media users appear to be particularly critical of NSTA may indicate that there is a lack of public engagement around the selection of a scientifically aligned educational program. There are undoubtedly lessons to be learnt here about how best to engage with parents and learners.
Perhaps the most surprising thing about educational resources available on the internet is that many of these are developed by people who aren’t scientifically qualified to teach or mentor young children. Educational blogs, web pages and online chat forums offer the opportunity for educational professionals to discuss their thoughts in an impartial and educational way. It’s important to remember that educational blogs and educational forums should not be seen as venues for propagating ideas or propagating a point of view. The focus of educational discussion should be to provide parents and educational professionals with accurate and reliable information about the subject. The aim of educational resources available online is to help educators improve teaching methods and curriculum, while also providing parents and children with access to high quality educational content that is consistent with standards.
Another aspect of educational resources available online is the proliferation of ‘how-to’ videos, audios and other educational content. These can be a valuable source of information for people who want to supplement their educational efforts, but are not interested in writing articles, giving presentations or participating in long, drawn out classroom discussions. Educational videos are especially popular among teachers looking to provide extra help and advice to students. In short, educational videos are a quick and easy way for educational professionals to communicate important educational content.
It may seem strange to some people that educational websites tend to promote science – or at least material based on science – rather than more liberal topics such as philosophy or history. This is not a surprise, however. Educational materials have always been designed to help young minds develop skills that they need to succeed in life. For example, children’s educational websites often feature educational videos, podcasts and games that help kids learn math, reading, writing and art. A prime example of this is the Numbers Game, which is available to anyone over the age of eight.
Educational websites are also a great source for finding additional educational content for websites. For example, a number of educational blogs exist, where educators comment on current events, answer questions and share links to educational content available on their websites, in their classrooms and at other community locations. While most educational blogs are hosted by individual educators, there are a number of large and prominent educational organization that host educational content for community members. These include the American Association of School Children (AASC) and the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP). Educational blogs are an excellent way for teachers to share educational content, get feedback and establish relationships within the education community.