Monday, March 14, 2016

Joining the Open Educational Resources (OER) Conversation

You may or may not be aware of a national campaign with some intriguing implications for librarians.

Last October, the U.S. Department of Education launched the #GoOpen campaign, a national campaign encouraging school districts to use openly licensed educational resources (OER). Put rather simply, the idea behind this initiative is to encourage school districts to access the wealth of free (both financial and copyright) educational resources available to level the academic playing field. The Office of Educational Technology’s #GoOpen site quotes Acting Secretary John King, explaining: "Openly licensed educational resources can increase equity by providing all students, regardless of zip code, access to high quality learning materials that have the most up-to-date and relevant content.”

So what does OER look like?

There are a plethora of resources available online. OER materials include lesson plans, worksheets or handouts, media, and other support materials that may be used and, in some cases, modified freely and without concern of copyright violation.

There are a number of places to begin exploring OER. The benefit of using these portals is that the materials available are often searchable by subject or standard, which makes finding resources slightly less daunting. Here are a few to begin to explore:

So what does this mean for teacher librarians?

Librarians have always been a wealth of knowledge and have long been active supporters of curriculum. We are curators by nature. We collect resources. We guide and support. After February's #GoOpen Exchange, Joyce Valenza called for teacher librarians to lend their voices and help lead the charge in this endeavor. In her blog post (OER and you. The curation mandate), Valenza’s challenge is for us to "be ready and to take the lead in making sense of the content and resources that will be making their way into our schools in a big way" (Valenza, 2016).

In a time when budgets are constantly being cut, the #GoOpen and OER initiatives give librarians an amazing opportunity to leverage these free resources to support the learning in their schools.  

Although I’m still wrapping my brain around the plethora of resources and all the implications for my school’s future, I feel the amazing potential already. As standards and curriculum change, my teachers are always searching for additional resources. Directing my teachers to OER ensures that they have access to quality materials that they can ethically use.

Although Iowa has not yet committed to becoming a #GoOpen state, I encourage you to learn more about OER and #GoOpen. I encourage you to be prepared to lead the charge in your school.

Learn more:
Office of Educational Technology. (n.d.). Retrieved from
Valenza, J. (2016, February 28). OER and you. The curation mandate. Retrieved from

*Note: This blog was originally written and published (by me) via the Iowa Association of School Librarians Blog: