It always starts wth a need…
I have dozens of needs for resource almost every week, particularly when we modify our teaching practice due to, say, a pandemic, or to accommodate exceptional learning needs. As a second-language teacher who deals with a wide spectrum of learners, I am always taking core concepts and repackaging them into a format that makes the concepts both more attractive, and more retainable.
Here’s a sample of something I made for my French 6 class to introduce vocabulary around the face. Obviously, I was in violation of international copyright laws, but the imagery and timeliness of the resource yielded excellent results in student demonstrated ability to retain the knowledge because of the visual association.
That said, I am also a major contributor to an online repository of free teacher-vetted resources called Bettereducate. Bettereducate is a free site used to store, share, and collaborate on projects, document, and resources by educators and administrators across the province. Each resource comes with tags that are part of a searchable database. I post my quality created projects on the site for colleagues to share free of charge, and am able to view, comment, and download the resources from others. One of my favourite resources to share is this french-themed Bingo (Lotto, if you are a purist),
based on the winter Carnaval, celebrated in Quebec early in each new year. It uses free images on all the cards, is relatively recent in terms of timeliness, and provides a resource for an aspect of French Second Language learning that is deficient- culture.
I am very proud of the project, as it took time and a lot of expertise that I have developed from my past careers. There is some desktop publishing from my journalism degree, the algorithm to generate non-repeating patterns from my math background, and general computer wherewithal that comes from experience. I am excited to share this because it also promotes Quebecois culture, and looks great with all its colour and quality images.
The thing that really stands out for me is the philosophical raison d’etre behind OER. Follow me here for a second. First, the purpose of education is to build critical thinking participants of a democratic society, with the end goal being that these individuals will help to form and moderate a progressively better (and hopefully, just) society in the future. To that end, the establishment of post-secondary institutions has occurred, so that experienced minds can provide guidance and discourse beyond the experiential day-to-day. So, what then, are we as a society doing, putting barriers that are ultimately economic, in the way of those who will become the driving force behind social advancement? Does that not mean we are in essence stymying ourselves, and in the process, creating social strata, that, though they have the same democratic power, may not have the same access to informing the awareness of both process and impetus? I would argue that such things as this are the defining aspects of privilege, and lead to the exponential degradation or retardation of society as the gap between those social strata perpetuate.
So, to that end, countries such as Germany are heading in the right direction, by offering free post-secondary education to all. If the point is betterment through the people, then bettering the people is the point. Particularly now, the need for free universal education is paramount, and so attempting to glean financial gain from those engaged in that betterment process is not only counterintuitive and restrictive, it is unethical.