Over the last several weeks the discussion of online learning and open educational resources have circulated. Before taking the course (Open and Distributed Learning), I had never heard of open educational resources. However, open educational resources are used all the time by everyday teachers. We search content through Pinterest and follow teacher blogs in order to get idea from others. Now, these are sites that are used daily and are unlikely to shut down due to the vast majority of people using them and the sheer amount of content that is covered. When considering how open educational resources are used, Katie Gosa on TEDxUTA sums up the bright possibilities that can be achieved specifically at a post-secondary level in her talk on OER.
In going through this course though, I have learned that open educational resources generally shut down within the first 5 years. Sometimes due to lack of publicity about the site or maintenance or even lack of funding. Yet, the thought of having an online platform where people can share resources without providing a ton or even any personal information seems like a no-brainer. Even the discussion of whether something is truly open or not is complex. Some believe that a resource is not open unless there is unrestricted access to the information with zero need for any information from the user. This is to say that in order to get the information you want, you would not have to provide an e-mail, username, you would not even have to create an account. Others, on the other hand, believe that open resources include sites that require usernames, passwords and an e-mail address. I would side with this argument as it seems utopian to run a website without any information from your demographic using the site.
With the idea of website usage in mind, the thought of online learning as a type of educational resource is one that provokes many thoughts. Online learning provides a freedom that is unlike traditional school. You are able to access classes anywhere (possibly at any time), you are able to be anywhere (as long as there is internet access) and you can connect with people around your country or even the world. This type of easy connection allows for broader learning capabilities. People in two vastly different places can collaborate over a project focusing on the same thing, yet the two people will provide varying perspectives on the topic. This again seems like a walk in the park. However, whenever technology is involved we have to consider the limitations. Limitations can include no wireless access, no internet access, lack of laptops or tablets, increased self motivation to attend classes and a lack of personal connection with others. Could the increase of technological use inhibit the exposure to the outside world such as being in a classroom or even being outside. This is to say that there could be an overexposure to screen time.
Therefore, when considering the use of online programs within education I believe there is a place for it. In doing my masters, it is a wonderful way to fit in my higher education that works around my schedule and does not require me drive to a classroom. I also believe there is room for these types of programs in high school and university, but elementary school is where the plot thickens. I am unconvinced that an online program would work for students at an elementary school level. There are aspects that can be used within elementary schools but the basic foundation of elementary school is to learn basic curriculum skills along with social emotional skills. Using a computer to connect with others, I think would not contribute to that social connection piece the way a classroom does.
Matt Miller, in his Don’t Buy the Book: Cultivate, Curate and Go Open TedX talk, speaks eloquently about the beauty of successful integration of technology into traditional teaching. I appreciate that he highlights the difference in terms of book versus technology role out in the school system. We have had years upon years to cultivate our understanding of books and how to use them within education. We even have librarians and library technicians to support us in our search for incorporating books into our classrooms. Yet, when technology came into the mix, it felt more like a need to integrate quickly without giving teachers time to learn how to use technology effectively.
Overall, throughout this course I have learned about open educational resources, privacy measures and the positive and negative effects that technology through online learning can create. Clearly there are limitations to online learning but in many situations there are also benefits. All in all, online education with a mixture of traditional classroom exposure seems to be the happy medium in my mind.