Open Educational Resources (OER)

Digital materials for today’s knowledge ecology

Carl Blyth, University of Texas at Austin

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For the first time in history, digital technologies have given educators the tools of mass cultural production (e.g., multimedia, word processing) as well as the means of mass distribution (e.g., YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter). One of the results of these profound changes is something called “open educational resources” (OER). Coined in 2002 during a UNESCO forum, the term “open educational resources” was meant to emphasize knowledge construction as an ongoing process that required editable, digital materials more in keeping with the dynamics of online learning and teaching. Still in their infancy, OER promise to disrupt traditional educational systems and to promote innovative online knowledge ecologies (Blyth, 2009). The main goal of this poster is to demonstrate and exemplify OER in terms of a set of new literacy practices. OER are fundamentally different from copyrighted print materials because they carry open licenses that are meant to promote “4R” digital practices:

  • Revise—adapt and improve the OER to meet the needs of the end user.
  • Remix—combine or “mash up” the OER with other OER to produce new materials.
  • Reuse—use the original or new version of the OER in a wide range of contexts.
  • Redistribute—make copies and share the original OER or new version with others.

Bonk (2009) contends that OER represent one of three technological megatrends whose convergence will define the future of education. The other two megatrends are the availability of the Internet and the rise of a “participatory learning culture” based on collaboration among users connected to open content. Bonk argues that despite the reality of the digital divide, “everyone who uses Web-based collaborative tools or portals to donate or volunteer time, talent, money, or other educational resources is potentially opening up education and affecting those without Internet access” (p. 54).

Carl Blyth

University of Texas at Austin