Challenges in Curation: Successfully Integrating Open Educational Resources in the Classroom - Digital Promise

Challenges in Curation: Successfully Integrating Open Educational Resources in the Classroom

June 8, 2017 | By

Start the Facebook live broadcast. #Check

Get the app loaded to take audience questions. #Check

Start live-tweeting the discussion. #Check

Welcome your panelists and attendees to your SXSWedu panel. #Check

The best laid plans can fail when you overlook the simplest of details. As the moderator of a SXSWedu panel covering the Challenges of Curation in K-12 Schools, I held several brainstorm calls with the panelists, sent them thought-starter questions, solicited feedback from teacher and librarian contacts in the industry, and thought I was as ready as I could be. That is until about five minutes into the session, when a hand in the audience went up asking, “Can you define what you mean by OERs?”

Define OERs. #Fail

As the teacher leading my SXSWedu classroom, I made a wrongful assumption my entire class entered the room with the same knowledge base. So I explained to my class that Open Educational Resources (OER) could be most easily defined as “free stuff on the Web.” OER Commons defines them more eloquently as, “teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others.”

Teachers have been surfing the Web for lesson plans and ideas for their classroom for years. But as more districts sign the #GoOpen initiative to replace a traditional textbook adoption with OERs, the challenge of combing through a world of content and finding the best resources that align to a district’s curriculum becomes more difficult. And how can OERs supplement the print and digital resources already purchased by the school? If you think about the origins of a traditional textbook, the publisher did the curation work for you. Taking on that task can be daunting, especially if OERs are new to your acronym vocabulary.

Back to the discussion at the SXSWedu panel, my panelists advised attendees to start by having a conversation with your librarian. Librarians are trained master curators. At Follett, we wanted to make it easier for librarians and teachers to search for OERs right from Destiny, the most popular library management system in K-12 schools. So, if you’re looking for resources on “molecules” you can find the print materials in your library that talk about molecules, the databases your school owns that support information about molecules, as well as all of the free resources on the Web. In the July release of Destiny, teacher and librarians will be able to partner to build Collections within Destiny to house all of the great resources in one place so teachers can use the Collection in the classroom.

But just like the beginning of my SXSWedu panel got off to a rough start, there’s a learning curve to bringing new resources into the classroom. If you want to integrate OERs successfully, I’d suggest starting here…

Talk to my librarian. #Check


  • Just as the internet an excellent tool for students to gain information from, it also an excellent tool that allows students to gain approaches to learning. Students can use the internet to not only find content, but also helpful learning tools. The wise teacher could use a part of his or her classroom time towards assigning students to find the necessary resources that will enhance the technological experiences in the classroom. Giving student the opportunity to look for tools that compliment the content would be an excellent approach to instruction.

  • There are many advantages to using technology. Student interventions are more personalized and the time for interventions is minimized. However, these advantages are present only when used. The benefit of technology can only present if school personnel are proficient on the use of the technology present at the school. If school personnel are not proficient, then volumes of funds can be spent on technology but the school system can yield no no benefit.

    School need to be as deliberate about training staff as they are about procuring technology. Simply acquiring technology without establishing a rigorous training routine is literally a waste of funds and is probably more hurtful to students than it is helpful.

  • Carla Zvonek says:

    Very timely piece on the promise of OER in teaching and learning and also the challenges that curating and integrating OER into the curriculum may present. This captures the novelty of not only the acronym but also the differences between the familiar free and teacher-created/shared “stuff” and today’s OER. What’s so fabulous is that OER licensing most often allows teachers the ability to modify the content to fit their needs and thereby elicit collaboration around content and teaching strategies. In the past, web resources and and shared teacher resources did not necessarily provide this flexibility. As important as this flexibility are platforms which aggregate vetted and tagged OER resources, allowing teachers and students to fine-tune their searches leading to the right resources to support the targeted learning outcomes. This is an exciting time for education!

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