Years ago, textbooks served a different purpose. Information was at a premium, and textbooks filled the void. They were chock full of it — a one-stop shop for the curious student.
Today, things have changed. We don’t have a lack of places to learn new things. Google searches and YouTube are where many of us go first to get that quick question answered. They’re often a good jumping-off point if we want to delve deep into a topic as well.
Textbooks are bulky, inflexible and pricey. They can be outdated when they arrive in classrooms, and they’re often outdated when schools finally adopt new ones. (You’re not surprised to hear that in a blog called “Ditch That Textbook,” are you?)
These days, where powerful technology lets us connect with others and share ideas, there has to be a better option than buying the same textbook for every kid.
Open educational resources (OERs) may be the best option available right now. It’s also a great option for adding unique experiences to the lessons you already teach.
These resources include individual reading selections, videos and PowerPoint presentations. They progress all the way to entire pre-made textbooks OR customizable ones.
Oh, and that word “open.” That also means that it’s almost all completely free. Most paid options are only premium upgrades from free resources that are already very rich.
Here are 10 open educational resources worth checking out:
1. Boundless (no longer available) — Boundless offers content that ranges from searchable lessons all the way to entire digital textbooks. It provides teachers and students with adaptable PowerPoint templates and pre-written quizzes.
2. SAS Curriculum Pathways (sascurriculumpathways.com) — My favorite feature of SAS Curriculum Pathways are its interactive animated lessons. It drops students into an attractive lesson that engages with audio, visuals and interactive elements. SAS Curriculum Pathways offers content in English, math, science, social studies and Spanish.
3. LearnZillion (learnzillion.com) — LearnZillion offers entire lesson plans and video lessons from more than 4,000 videos on English language and math. Its resources are linked to Common Core State Standards.
4. OER Commons (oercommons.org) — OER Commons houses lessons created by educators. It includes subjects like history, law, social science and more. OER Commons digital librarians have also curated collections of professional learning resources like game-based learning, arts integration and building text-dependent questions.
5. Curriki (curriki.org) — Curriki wants to create the largest global community library of OERs. Its library includes thousands of educator-vetted, openly licensed materials. It has curated collections in math, science, computer science, English and study skills.
6. PBS LearningMedia (pbslearningmedia.org) — More than 100,000 digital resources. 205 media partners. Kids have been learning from PBS for a long, long time. Now, schools can bring harness its power with tools like lesson builder, storyboard tool and quiz maker.
7. CK-12 (ck12.org) — CK-12 has been around for about eight years, providing STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) content resources. It includes everything from lessons to assignments/quizzes to entire customizable textbooks in STEM content areas as well as English, SAT prep and history.
8. engageny (engageny.org) — This site, maintained by the New York State Education Department, helps students and teachers align to the New York State Board of Regents Reform Agenda. Its resources, though, are available to anyone. They include thousands of videos and lessons on all grade levels — prekindergarten through high school.
9. HSTRY.co (hstry.co) — This new tool lets teachers search through and create interactive timelines based on history. Pull in video clips, audio of historic speeches, primary resources, documents and more. Add questions and other interactive elements.
10. Coursera (coursera.org) — More than 1,000 free courses are available on Coursera from universities and other educational organizations. Topics include social sciences, business, life sciences, computer science, arts and humanities and more.
These options can be used to add a bit of pizzazz to a class, an important missing element to a unit, or an entire learning resource (like a textbook) to a course.
[reminder]Which of these are you most likely to use? What are the best features? Have you used open educational resources? If so, what was your experience?[/reminder]
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