Saturday, December 17, 2016

Adventures With OER And Google Groups


I recently learned about Open Educational Resources (OER) during a webinar session I attended in October. Since then, I have been exploring these resources and trying to find ways to introduce them to our teaching staff. I'm grateful to be joined by Lakeside High School teacher, Mr. Brooks Lee, in this blog article.


What are Open Educational Resources?



When I began hearing about OER, I started researching about these materials. I discovered that the purpose of OER is to provide educational materials that are open for educators to use freely. They are also meant for teachers to remix as needed. These are mostly openly licensed materials. From a teacher librarian standpoint, this is very exciting. It gives teachers the opportunity to custom curate and share materials for their learners. It also provides teacher librarians a chance to assist teachers by sharing training on OER materials. Teacher librarians can also serve as curators of content. This is an area I am just beginning to learn about. I plan to reflect more about this journey on the blog.


Teacher Librarian Reflection


I had a long conversation about OER with Follett Learning Sales Consultant, Molly O'Sullivan (@FollettMolly). She shared about how these resources are searchable in Follett Destiny. Since we use Atriuum for our library management system, I began searching for other OER database portals. OER Commons was the first one I discovered. At first glance, I was very impressed with the interface on OER Commons. The site allows the user to create a free account (for building lesson plans and resources). It also empowers the user to search for OER materials from grades K-12 and up through higher education. After a few basic searches, I knew I had to get this into the hands of our faculty!

Our library is the hub of our school with multitudes of students and teachers traveling to and fro. It is difficult to get the ear of teachers in the library when things are constantly busy. I have decided I can no longer wait for them to come see me since they simply don't have time. This is one reason it is crucial to understand that we must leave the confines of the library to find them whenever possible. Opportunities to share are waiting for us each day.

One of our social studies teachers, Mr. Brooks Lee, happened to be walking down the hall in front of the library one morning. I was able to catch him and visit for a few moments. We talked about his new class set of Chromebooks and his progress in graduate school. It wasn't long before I had a chance to talk about OER. I told him this could be a solution to creating personalized digital lessons and activities utilizing his Chromebook cart. He was very interested, so I took a few minutes to show him OER Commons.

The YouTube link above features Mr. Lee discussing OER Commons & Google Groups

A few days later, I followed up with him. He had already discovered web resources via OER Commons to go along with an upcoming discussion in his class. He was very excited about this content, and he invited me to come to his class. I offered to broadcast the lesson on Facebook Live. I knew this was an opportunity to share with our teachers what a digital lesson could look like. (Many teachers I serve are my friends on Facebook.) He also wanted to demonstrate how he is using Google Groups in the classroom for digital discussion through writing responses. Many teachers have questions about how lessons will look in the future since our district is gradually moving into a 1:1 device configuration. They need answers now, and this is one way I have chosen to help them. Mr. Lee was excited to allow me to interview him on Facebook Live! Please, consider watching these video clips from that Facebook posts that are located on this blog page.

Mr. Lee's Reflection


With our school making plans to transition to 1:1, a big question for many teachers is how to best use technology in the classroom. I have been looking at several resources, and when Mr. Evans recently introduced me to OER Commons I began to see how it could be extremely useful. At first glance, I noticed that there are search features for every subject and every grade level.


Students utilize Google Groups to respond to classmates
In my 8th grade Social Studies classes we are currently reading the historical fiction novel “Jefferson’s Sons,” about the children that Jefferson likely fathered with one of his slaves, Sally Hemmings. I did a quick search for “Thomas Jefferson Slavery” on OER Commons and immediately found several useful resources that I could use right away to support our reading and foster further discussions and connections. Using Google Groups, I had my students read one of the OER resources about Jefferson’s Ideology, then post their thoughts about how the article compared to what they were reading in the novel, or if they found anything that surprised them in the article. A few days later, I had students go back to Google Groups and read their fellow classmate’s responses, then verbally brag on classmates and tell what they thought was interesting about their post. This led to some really great discussions during that session.


Next, I had students go back to the OER article and use some of the related links on the side of the page to go Monticello.org and try to find people, places, or events that are featured in the novel. It felt like a treasure hunt as students excitedly began calling out things like “It talks about Eston Hemmings!” or “Here’s some stuff on Mulberry Row!” Several students found a digital tour of the Great House and the plantation grounds, which was a big hit. All of this was made easy by the articles and links at oercommons.org.

Mr. Lee and his class demonstrate the use of OER tools and Google Groups in the link above


One last thing. OER has a digital lesson plan builder that I have begun playing with. Using this you can easily create multiple tasks for students, upload supporting images, and include links to the resources needed for the lesson. It’s easy to use and looks great from the student’s end. You can also publish any lessons that you create so that other teachers can search and use them. I’m currently using the tool to make a lesson that will end with a Socratic Seminar on The Legacy of Thomas Jefferson.


Next Steps


OER will help change the role of the teacher librarian. In order to speed up that shift, perhaps we should inform our teachers and administrators about these resources and begin modeling them. I encourage everyone to write about what you discover. Consider sharing your journey on social media. Through this sharing, we will all benefit from our combined experiences. Invite administrators to class lessons that use OER materials and demonstrate your role as a teacher librarian in assisting teachers. My Facebook Live videos (you can view on this page) were watched by several of our administrators. Imagine how this impacted their understanding of my role as a teacher librarian.

This is only the beginning of the journey. I hope you will join me in this Future Ready endeavor to help empower teachers with OER materials!

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