My work with digital content in general and OER in particular is often at the policy level. I am not as fortunate as colleagues in the field such as Karen Fasimpaur who get to work with teachers, often directly in the classroom. Nonetheless, I do talk with teachers from time to time and they have questions similar to those that policymakers ask such as, “How do you find good quality OER?” After I mumble something like, “Go to the Creative Commons site and click on Explore and go to ISKME and their OER Commons site,” I try to tell them that the best quality comes from the users. That is, while OER is content, it also is open. Thus, users should contribute content, but they also should also use it and modify it to meet their needs and their students’ needs.
This notion was reinforced in an excellent blog post by Ian Quillen in Mind/Shift. Ian quotes Bill Fitzgerald, the founder of FunnyMonkey, during a presentation at Educon 2.5: “People often hear the content piece rather than the open piece,” said Fitzgerald. “And it shifts [an understanding] about what open content is.”
Quillen’s post goes on to delineate a framework of nine tips Fitzgerald offers based on “The Cathedral and the Bazaar: Musings on Linux and Open Source by an Accidental Revolutionary,” which is characterized as “an evolving book” by Eric Raymond the author of the book. Fitzgerald’s tips are not only are practical, they also embrace the spirit of open. The tips are simple and common sense, yet valuable: “Good content comes from personal passion,” “Licensing is important,” “Hands off the lessons you’ve tired of.”
The next time a teacher asks about open educational resources and what they mean, refer them to these nine tips. They should get the essence of the OER spirit.