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Open educational resources to the rescue

Bouillabaise Creative Commons
Bouillabaise Creative Commons

Facing the rising take-over by plutocrats, public education has thrown caution to the wind. The considered response to Common Core State Standards (CCSS) results in Open Educational Resources (OERs) to provide teachers and learners a richer way to share effective learning materials while not enriching profiteers pushing their products.

What’s $$ got to do with it?, got to do with it?

As the moneyed interests of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Waltons and the Broad School of Superintendency have dominated the direction and implementation of standardized K-12 curriculum, red flags waved universally while this trillionaire trio plunked down several billion dollars in placing their people at the top of a full 50% of the largest school districts in the country.

Then they hired their fellow graduates for key positions within the districts they now control and pursued the agendas of the Trojan Horse Trio - mapping the take-over of the ~ $100 billion annual text/instructional material markets along with generations of creativity.

One of the tactics they employed was Teach For America (TFA) - the scheme whereby college graduates could shed some debt, build a resume by teaching for 2 years and then land a position within their chosen field, something they could not accomplish during the down economic times.

Many recent graduates who were NOT trained as teachers took the 5-week TFA ‘Teacher-Training’ seminar and then had a couple of years of falling on their faces, wasting children’s lives, and then mostly running back to their chosen fields or graduate school after their stint as a teacher cardboard cut-out finally drew to a much-anticipated close - the re-cycling bin.

Most of the Common Core funding has positioned a handful of school district heads to shift funding toward educational resources from for-profit companies who planted them there specifically to do that one thing. Our largest school districts purchase educational materials from the marketeers with their puppets in place, groomed to establish lucrative markets and dominate market share from the inside out, top down, world-wide.

Open Educational Resources (OERs) bring value, sustainability and creativity back

The response by the community supporting Open Educational Resources (OERs) is heartening. Rather than selling the curricular material in the OER, the best minds of our generation are giving it away for a nod. Faculty from all around the world have chosen to give up the urge for dollar signs in the interest of those who inherit this place, trading in today's wealth for tomorrow's bonanza.

Creators of material determine the level of mixing and re-using of their material and whether it is used for commercial purposes, but can insist on attribution at any level, but with irrevocable consequence.

The decision is not made lightly, but over and over, around and through, the cadre of classroom teachers is sharing creations and not selling them. They can choose from a world of works, share and re-mix, alter and modify and even let kids use them. Uh Oh. Kids'll learn how to connect! And use the internet! And their heads! Knowledge and power and understanding, oh my!

Gosh, is this fun or what? Time flies, knowledge flows, skill grows, and the power to improve resides in the probing children pushing forward like never before.

The internet opens to anyone with a screen. In some developing countries, drones now float in the sky giving our isolated friends and neighbors the same access to electronic communications in their world as we get in ours.

Online learning offers intellectual nutrition and entertainment, delivers stimulating and gratifying blends of interactive challenges and multi-media opportunities, and doesn’t take an arm and a leg to access. Starving out the wanna-be learner for another dollar is the olde hat plutocrat. Thankfully, OER is the future.

From overtime for candles to free-time with computers

A few generations back, miners would work extra hours so they could buy candles for their children to learn to read in the dark, improve their lot in life and avoid the tedious misery in the mine. Today our children have the candles and the fire. We sit at our screens connected to the giants of all time, and we drive our own destinies like hovering hummingbirds slurping the nectar that thrills us, fills us and propels us onward.

Creative Commons is a licensing system that lets educators create and share lessons, units, books, chunks of instructional programs or entire curricula. It saves this planet some time and other resources like trees, fuel and air quality, but the big gift comes in the minds of learners.

Once upon a time, we had to walk to the library to see what the footnote was referring to; now we click on the hyperlink, and POOF! We’re in the footnoted book, on the page and looking at the paragraph or the chart or the image, video or power point explanation by the greatest authority in the world talking to us from 450 years ago in Paris in hip English with Eric Clapton playing guitar in the background and a well-photo-shopped Lady Gaga asking him questions and flirting in her own sultry way. Fun works.

Students who were intimidated by classes full of mean and smarmy kids can find safety and solace in the online applications because they allow for differentiated instruction, for remote and asynchronous access to the web. The paradigm shift has enabled personalized instruction to adapt material in OER to specific needs.

A kid can discover what she needs to learn and not have to face the stress of having all her classmates observe her frustrating failures until she masters the concept through interactive guidance of programmable sources from her teacher. Online learning means the peer pressure is off, and the little light inside is shining on. Learning is nothing if not an inside job. Hecklers begone.

The role of the teacher is shifting from a source of knowledge in the past centuries to a sorcerer of learning in the future. Teachers magically divine what learners do NOT know (formative assessment by observing student works) and then devise a path where the learners rub up against the old embedded lamps, discover their genies and make their own connections.

Teachers are mentors and guides, coaches and prompters and reviewers. Learners take control of the action in their lives; teachers are just distant human shapes, gesturing wildly on the sidelines and jumping up and down cheering.

Open Educational Resources for endless recourse

The guy from the garage gate with the gizmo who would sell us his fish has lost out to the spirit of fishing, to the joy of the cast and the winding of the reel, the chumming and chanting and checking the sky, skeeters and sweat and then the hit ‘Oh My!’, the setting of hooks and bending of rods, to the fight and the net and flopping gill-gasping fish filling their own open canoes.

Life is new now. It is close and smelly, heaving with forces unknown, slick with slime unfelt and amazingly alluring textures and altruistic attitudes uplifting, the pulling power of proper perspective, the alignment of planets, stars and star stuff. Viva la difference! The power to fish.

Teachers today and tomorrow are sharing their wheels, not re-inventing them. They are sharing their experiences like bartering beach bums making a meal of a smoky cauldron of rain water, some shell-fish and a bass, chunks of root vegetables and a handful of spicy flower tops.

Free Bouillabaisse beats the daylights out of the spendy frozen tasteless fish sticks, huh?

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