Viewpoint

Gooru.org: Making it Easier to Use OER

Gooru.org gets it! Finally! Here is the latest addition to their collection of OER — Open Education Resources:

"Explore amazing courses & libraries. 
Don't start from scratch! Copy and customize over 35 quality courses developed and implemented by teachers and curriculum designers at innovative schools, districts and charters."

Whoa! We may have well put the proverbial cart before the proverbial horse. Let’s back up! What’s gooru.org?

With the movement to 1-to-1 and the movement away from paper-based textbooks, K-12 teachers are needing digital resources and lessons to use in their classes. In 2015, the Learning Counsel carried out a survey and found

  • "Most K–12 teachers involved in the transition to digital curriculum spend between two and five hours a week searching for digital resources for their lessons."

And with almost 10 percent of those teachers surveyed spending between 6-10 hours per week searching, we previously asked "So, When During the School Day Should Teachers Create Curriculum?" Suggestion: please visit this blog post and read the 38 — yes, 38 — comments about that blog post.

And gooru.org is one of the websites that teachers go to in search of good, digital curricular resources. It’s sort of an OER marketplace. On gooru.org, then, teachers can find videos, games, websites, assessments — even whole lessons. Now, there are a number of other OER Marketplaces, e.g., but Gooru.org is the one of the few where the resources are free and will always be free. Why free? Because, Gooru.org has a unique mission:

"Honor the human right to education
Gooru honors the human right to education by creating technology that enables educators and researchers to “open-source” effective practices and content to improve learning outcomes for all."

It’s worth repeating: For Gooru.org, education is a human right. Phew! In the U.S. Declaration of Independence it says:

  • "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

Education is one of those "unalienable Rights" according to Gooru.org. Yes! 

And, as long as we are talking about education as a "right," it can be argued that public education — education that is free and for all — is one of the greatest contributions of a democracy. Google “public education democracy” and you will see a raft of articles from "An American imperative: Public education" to "No Public Education, No Democracy!" and lots, and lots and lots in between. And, just to be clear: We — CN & ES — couldn’t agree more with gooru.org’s fundamental assumption: "Honor the human right to education." (This particular blog post isn’t the place to get into the implications of the privatization of education — or the consumerization of education — but, as they say: Stay tuned.)

Climbing down off that soap box, then …  

Let’s get into the specifics of gooru.org. First, gooru.org has a particular, and we might add peculiar, pedagogical philosophy — that’s why it is "sort of" an OER Marketplace. The theme, literally front and center of Gooru.org is "Navigate Learning." And there is a one minute 40 second video smack dab in the middle of gooru.org’s landing page that informs the viewer what exactly that philosophy is and how to use the gooru.org website: (1) Teachers need to first create formative assessments, (2) then create a digital course that addresses those formative assessments, and (3) then have their students enact the course, assessing all the while.

Really?

Informally, we have asked several K–12 teachers to:

  • Please watch the 1:40 introductory video on Gooru.org
  • Please tell us (CN & ES) if you agree with the process of curriculum development described in that video.

For the most part, this is what we heard from the teachers we surveyed:

  • "Huh? While formative assessment is a guide, gooru.org’s directive is just not the way, in practice, we prepare our curriculum materials. Oh, and by the way … what does gooru.org mean by 'Navigate Learning'? We don’t think about education as a navigation process."

Yes, our survey of six teachers was informal — but still provocative.

Once inside gooru.org, it does get more familiar. Create a class, e.g., sixth grade social studies. Then find some resources that are relevant to one’s curricular goals, e.g., teach a unit on how a United States president is elected. (A relevant topic these days.) There are collections that contain a set of digital resources, assessments (e.g., questions), resources (e.g., videos, webpages, interactive games/simulations, pictures, textual materials and audio materials). A teacher can then build a lesson using those resources on the website itself. Finally, a teacher can have students enact that lesson on the students' computing devices. 

Be warned: Navigating the gooru.org website does take an investment of time and patience, trial and error. While the user experience could most definitely be improved, we are sympathetic: Teachers have learned, after investing time and patience, trial and error, how to navigate lessons that are composed of analog elements (e.g., books, papers). No surprise then: The shift to digital lessons is going to take an investment of time and patience, trial and error, by teachers. (Administrators, parents and students: Please take note!)

The Department of Education is making a major push for educators to use OER — to #GoOpen. But, inasmuch as there are over 5,000,000 open education resources on gooru.org, finding the right ones can be a challenge — to say the least! But, our guess is that gooru.org has listened to its customers and those customers have asked for help in creating digital curricula.

Thus, gooru.org has announced that in August 2016 (that’s about now), gooru.org will be posting 35 full courses: "Don't start from scratch! Copy and customize…" What a great idea! Take an existing course and tweak it. Start with something that is known to be good — and make it one’s own. We applaud gooru.org for taking this major step in providing support for teachers who are trying to #GoOpen! 

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