The DeFT Project participants, in many instances, took on board the principles of open resources and adapted them to their own context. Perhaps the clearest example of this is described in Case Study 6 which aimed to develop children’s abilities to use a range of open source online tools for digital arts, storytelling and poetry. In this case, the teacher clearly wanted to develop a set of resources that would enable children to undertake a series of activities independently, which they could access both from home and school. He felt that it was important that these resources should be open source and able accessible across platforms:
I really wanted this project to be about accessibility. Not just for the pupils. But for any teachers or parents who wish to try out some of the activities with their children. Too often the opportunity to try out new and exciting learning opportunities can be stymied by a reliance on one particular operating system, a piece of kit they do not possess (or cannot afford) or a level of technical expertise Mr Zuckerberg would quake at.
Using open source tools meant that pupils could continue working on project tasks outside of the school environment and continue their learning. Similarly, the open nature of the tools and resources would allow teachers to undertake tasks across the curriculum without being restricted by cost of software licences or specialised equipment.
The DeFT project also offered insights into issues related to the sharing of teaching materials online and embedding Open Educational Resources within the school sector, these are as follows:
- The school context presents unique challenges when it comes to learner-produced resources – these include issues around e-safety and e-security, as well as ownership of resources and the need to consider permissions from parents/guardians for the open release of resources.
- Whilst a minority of school teachers in this project were aware of the concept of OERs, they were very keen to re-use materials from other sources – in fact this could be seen as part of a professional culture in which practitioners regularly access online teaching resource banks, websites such as Times Education Supplement or Teachernet.
- In the context of the school sector, it is probably more helpful to focus on open practices in more general terms. This would acknowledge the existing involvement of teachers with practices of sharing resources, and their willingness to incorporate open source tools in their teaching practice etc.
- There are a number of barriers to greater uptake of open practices in schools. In particular open source tools may be hard to access because of restrictions put in place within school IT networks.
Although responses from project participants indicated high levels of re-use, especially with regard to online teaching materials from professional resource banks, they also expressed a sense of frustration with these sources, arguing that resources were often not described in a way that met their needs – for instance, they mentioned they would like to be able to search for resources in a specific curriculum area. They also mentioned they would like to be able to filter the search results according to assessment objectives, levels (i.e. primary/secondary) and provenance (UK or non-UK) so that they could be adapted to their teaching context. Given that lack of description is one of the key barriers to reuse Open Educational Resources (Conole , Grainne et al 2008), these issues may have an important influence on the uptake of OERs within the school sector.
One of the key motifs for engagement with OERs was to support professional practice. This is probably best exemplified in Case Study 10, in which the teacher created a school blog that aimed to encourage the open sharing of resources and enhanced reflection on pedagogic practice. In the context of that case study, Open Educational Resources functioned as a tool to improve communication between and within departments, share best practices and support professional development.
For References see 2.6.6 References / Links to Further Resources