U.S. Government Commits to Expansion of OER in K-12

A month after naming its first open educational resources advisor, the United States Department of Education has affirmed that over the next year it intends to show American K-12 schools how to make the transition to openly licensed education materials and expand the use and availability of OER around the world. The message came in an article published on the blogs for both ED and the White House.

OER consists of digital content such as textbooks, lessons and videos that's licensed to be freely shared and modified.

In September, ED, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and U.S. Department of State co-hosted a workshop on the topic of OER, which brought together 40 participants from eight countries to share their efforts and identify opportunities for the expanded use of OER to address "local education challenges around the world."

The workshop wasn't entirely unexpected. In a national action plan published by the White House last year, OER surfaced as a major area of commitment. The plan stated that the State Department would run three pilot programs overseas by December 2015 to use OER to support learning in "formal and informal learning contexts." Those results were to be made publicly available.

One participant at the workshop who served as a Foreign Service officer in the Balkans promoted the idea of OER as allowing educators to adapt their textbooks for specific students, by enabling them to modify text to use names and scenarios from their own areas in math word problems. Another attendee talked about the use of OER to support education for Syrian refugees and inmates in U.S. prisons.

Over the next year, wrote blog co-authors Richard Culatta, Sunshine Ison and Nancy Weiss, "the U.S. government will continue efforts to expand and accelerate the use and availability of openly licensed educational materials worldwide." Culatta is the director of ED's Office of Educational Technology; Ison directs State's Educational and Cultural Affairs Collaboratory; and Weiss is a senior advisor in the Office of Science and Technology Policy. The trio also committed to modeling "the transition to openly licensed educational materials at scale in U.S. K-12 schools." Details of those efforts weren't specified.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.