With Open Education Comes Hope

Teaching in a francophone school in Saskatchewan, finding good resources that meet the needs of my students is extremely difficult.  In most cases, teachers in the same situation as me, resort to investing large amounts of time developing resources for the specific context in which we teach.  On occasion, resources can be found from other provinces and other francophone regions of the world, however, Fransaskois teachers spend significant energy trying to adapt and modify these resources to meet the needs of their students.

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Given that our schools are very small and geographically dispersed across the province, I’ve never had the opportunity for collaborate with other French science teachers in my school.  In the 12 years that I have taught, I’ve always been the only science teacher in my school and efforts to collaborate on developing resources between the science teachers within the division has always fallen short.   Our workload always seems to be too large and the technological tools for collaboration have never been effective to the point of being practical.  As a result, all the science teachers in my division have mostly worked in isolated silos.  Perhaps we could all get ideas to more effectively share like Chris elaborates in his blog.

The idea of open education is very appealing to a teacher in my situation.  As a result of initiatives like Wikipedia and the Kahn Academy that are producing and sharing larger amounts of French resources, my life as a teacher is becoming increasingly manageable.  These open platforms offer quality materials that I can use on a daily basis.  An open education initiative to which I contributed was the development of the French language version of the Computer Science 20 course developed by Dan Shellenberg.

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As a result of this collaboration with the ministry of education, all students in Saskatchewan have access to a fully developed course including most materials for free.  This opens the possibility for more students to take the course and allows for a larger proportion of teachers to teach the course.  As mentioned in the video on Why Open Education Matters, an investment like this gives opportunities to almost all students and teachers to have success regardless of their social or economic realities.

As I watched Larry Lessigs Ted Talk on the Laws that choke creativity, I’m reminded of my daily struggle with copyright protection and the protection of many forms of content online.  Given that no French textbook will ever be created for the Saskatchewan science curricula that I teach, I’ve accumulated dozens of print resources from Quebec, Ontario, British Colombia, Manitoba, Alberta and even France for each class.  As a result, only a few pages and sometime a few chapters in each book is directly useable.  What I’m I to do as a teacher?  I cannot justify purchasing 30 examples of each textbook for which I only use one or two chapters in my pedagogy.  The price would be exorbitant for my school and each of my students would have a dozen textbooks each of which they only use a small percentage.  As a result, I try to make my own recreations of most of the content I consult and sparingly photocopy only the essential piece to distribute to my students.  Hopefully, as open education gains wider acceptance and propagates further in other languages, this reality will be a thing of the past.

So many great educational videos can be found on Youtube and, more recently, on other platforms like Facebook and Instagram.  Given the ever-changing nature of these platforms and their policies related to protecting their content, I have great difficulty archiving resources from these plarform for offline educational purposes.  Although there exist many workarounds and third-party tools to download and archive videos and animations from said platforms, the friction involved in accomplishing this task often results in failure and frustration.  If only these platforms could migrate their policies related to user generated content towards a default that encourages their release under a creative commons license or something similar.  If that were to happen, content could potentially be freed for download.

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As Ben Sullins mentions on his Telsanomics Youtube Channel: “If you free the data, the mind will follow”.  As the Internet matures, I find the sharing of information and the freeing of data is become in vogue.  I feel optimistic that much like the Open Source initiative in computer software championed Bruce Perens, educational material is following much the same path.  Great open resources are being released from many of the best educational institutions in the world from places like MIT and BCcampus.  As a result of initiatives like these, education is becoming democratized and new opportunities for discovery and learning are appearing.  The success of autodidacts like the famous Jeri Ellsworth could become more common given they have the tools like open education to thrive.

3 thoughts on “With Open Education Comes Hope

  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on Open Ed, Open Ed Resources and the Creative Commons. Your frustrations as a Fransaskois teacher are very evident and rightfully so. Copyright laws pose a significant barrier to teachers when (as you mention) much of our content collection is a version of remixing various materials and resources. I too, hope that the Creative Commons can become a more widespread practice so as to allow for more widespread creativity both in teaching and in general.

  2. Hello Daniel – I enjoyed reading your thoughts about open education this week! I, too, occasionally struggle to find applicable course content in the Practical Nursing program. I have had to search to outside resources and, luckily, I am able to copy a certain amount of educational course manuals, under the ‘fair dealings’ copyright law, and distribute to students through the creation of ‘instruction sheets’. All resources are then listed and defined as ‘fair dealing’ if applicable, at the back of every student course manual. I have also used BC open campus and love the wide variety of available resources there.

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