We had a chance to talk with Karen Fasimpaur, who’s very active in the OER community. In fact, Curriki will be co-leading a Birds of a Feather session with Karen at ISTE 2011 (June 26-29 in Philadelphia) on open education and OER. Meet us there!
Learn more about Karen’s views on OER, its impact, and why more teachers aren’t using them.
What do you do and how did you get involved with OER?
I work with K-12 schools across the country to help them differentiate instruction by using rich content and engaging methods to get kids excited about learning. I got involved in OER through my work in developing content and trying to use and adapt existing content resources to use in digital environments. Prior to Creative Commons licenses, we often struggled with copyright restrictions and getting publishers to allow us to re-purpose materials, even those schools which had already paid to use. With OER, it is possible to adapt materials for use on different platforms and devices and also to allow students and teachers to use the materials in their own multimedia projects legally.
In what ways can OER impact education?
OER can improve education by allowing costs to be shifted away from expensive, proprietary resources to open, sharable ones. In particular, for publicly-funded projects, this is a logical step for the common good that allows funds to be shifted to other areas, like professional development and hardware. OER has the potential to increase equity of access to content and to improve learning by fostering more engaging and appropriate content resources.
What are the biggest advantages of OER? How do students benefit?
The biggest advantage of OER and also the benefit to students is in differentiating instruction. To differentiate effectively is a lot of work and requires a large number of resources and ones that can be adapted to different student needs. This might mean adapting the reading level, or including multimedia, or incorporating vocabulary support. Without OER, copyright restrictions often make it difficult and prohibitively expensive to do this. OER gives teachers and students the tools they need to facilitate effective learning.
Why aren’t more teachers using OER in the classroom?
In K-12, very few teachers know what OER is. If they were more aware of all the great OERs out there, they would definitely use them more. And if they were aware of Creative Commons licenses, they would share their own materials as OER as well. [Note: check out Karen's contributions to Curriki here.]
What’s the biggest myth about OER?
I think the biggest myth about OER is that being “free” is the best thing about them. The truth is that there is a lot of free content available now. There are several things that make OER different from all the other free tools available. First, OER will always be free, unlike many proprietary resources, which may be free today but not tomorrow. Secondly, OER gives schools more control, over how they use the materials, where they are housed, and even how student data is stored. Most importantly, OER facilitates sharing among schools and learners so that when one person creates a highly effective model for use, others can also benefit from that.
Karen Fasimpaur has a keen interest in the area of open educational resources, particularly in elementary and secondary education (K-12). She currently runs a small educational technology company and has worked in education, including software and textbook publishing, for over 15 years. She has also taught overseas in Africa.