The availability of free/open educational resources is radically changing the pedagogic landscape. NetSpeak revisits this theme and discusses the latest developments.
Regular readers of this column need little introduction to the concept of open educational resource (OER) — a pedagogic resource that can be reused, modified, remixed and distributed universally.
The OER movement is spreading like wildfire and it is almost impossible to spot a subject that remains untouched by this exciting movement, unleashed by the Net's innovative/liberal forces.
In case you wish to lean more about the OER movement, take a look at the OER-Handbook at: http://wikieducator.org/OER_ Handbook/educator.
In the past (http://www.thehindu.com/2008/11/24/stories/200811245220 1600.htm), we have featured several ventures meant for generating free and open educational resources (like Connexion — http://cnx.org/-), the collaborative infrastructure that facilitates the production/distribution of free educational materials. Open learning initiative (http://oli.web.cmu.edu/openlearning/index.php) is another wonderful resource from which you can access complete course materials on popular subjects such as economics, statistics, physics, chemistry, engineering statics and so on for free.
OER movement encompasses a variety of educational content. It can be a complete course on a subject or a lesson plan or a subject-specific book or a short animated video explaining a complex concept. Open books (books that can be freely used and modified by anyone without any restrictions) form a significant component of the OER spectrum.
An excellent open book production centre, where you can access a wide array of open books, is ‘Flat World Knowledge' (http://www. flatworldknowledge.com/).
As per its site, while publishing a book, FWK adopts the traditional book publishing model — authorise an expert to write a book and publish it following the rigorous peer-review and editing process. However, once published, the open-book takes a different lifecycle.
The books published by FWK can be read on-line for free. But, if you wish to obtain a desk copy you need to pay. On this count this service is a commercial open textbook publisher. The significance of this service is the facility that lets the reader customise a book. One can edit/delete/add content, add annotations to the relevant paragraphs/chapters and save a copy of the customised book.
The open textbooks published by the non-profit CK12 (http://ck12.org/flexr/) is yet another great initiative, where one can find quality textbooks on subjects such as science, technology and mathematics. The books published by this service (called Flexbooks) can not only be viewed online but also be downloaded as a PDF document.
If you are a science/mathematics teacher or a school going student you may find the ‘Free High School Science Textbook' (FHSST) project useful (http://www.fhsst. org/). The project that aims to provide free science and mathematics texts for high school students hosts physics, chemistry and mathematics text books (for grades 10-12).
Students can use these textbooks to further their knowledge without incurring any cost. Global Textbook project (http://globaltext.terry.uga.edu/home) and Assayer (http://www.theassayer.org/) are a few other places to hunt for open books.
The OER content is exploding all over the Net and to help us easily filter/find the appropriate OER content, several special search services like OCW Finder (http://www.ocwfinder.org/), discus sed in the past, are in place. OER repositories are turning out to be yet another means to locate appropriate open educational content. These repositories host OER content/its metadata and help us find/download the relevant educational resources with ease.
Curriki (Curriculum Wiki), a repository that focuses on school curricula, is an excellent example of a service of this kind.
The service (http://www. curriki.org/xwiki/bin/view/Main/WebHome) helps you easily contribute/find/share/access high-quality educational materials such as teaching plans and other subject-specific teaching/learning content.
DiscoverEd (http://discovered.creativecommons.org/search/), the search engine that indexes different OER repositories, is yet another OER search tool worth a test.
For instance, OER players such as Curriki, OER Commons, MIT OpenCourseware, Academic Earth and the like have Twitter (http://twitter.com/jmurali) presence. Following them on Twitter could be a good idea if you wish to keep up with the latest news on OER in general and on the facilities offered by these services in particular.
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