I imagine that every year, provincially, we spend tens of millions of dollars on textbooks. Simultaneously, teachers around BC are creating their own tailor-made resources to suit their students’ needs. While there is a lot of sharing between teachers, in many cases, teachers in the same school let alone same district are creating resources in a similar fashion to meet similar needs. One of the most rewarding results of ongoing professional development is often finding resources to share, debate, hack and tailor for your own use. Given the millions we spend on texts, is there an opportunity to do something slightly different – to create a BC repository of teacher created content that is openly shared? Recently, a group of teachers and I met to dream about that possibility.
As we met, we wondered how many teachers have their own personal repository of materials many of which are electronically stored? What would it be like to host a “content forum” where teachers from around our area were brought together to share their electronically stored resources and for us to talk about how we could facilitate the sharing of these materials in an “open source” manner. We have the infastructure to do this and if we wanted to offer such a service, we could.
What if we, as a district, took 10% of what we currently invest in learning resources and instead invested that money in pulling teachers together to create an open source repository for all? In Surrey, we have started publishing courses in iTunesU and the demand has been immense. For one course alone, we are almost at 3000 downloads and are trending on ITunesU alongside materials from Harvard and Stanford. Perhaps for what might be a relatively small investment, we could provide teachers with more relevant information and materials that they need in a manner that is easily accessible for them. For a small investment in time upfront, there could be a big payoff for teachers in the end. I am not suggesting that we go whole hog into iTunesU for everything but what I am saying is that clearly there is a demand for quality resources online and openly available. iTunesU is but one example and there are many ways to share.
We also talked about the fact that sometimes with larger initiatives, we wait for the ministry or someone else to do this work since it could be broad in scale. But why wait? If it’s worth doing, it is worth doing ourselves and again we feel we could do this with minimal resources up front. We are living in a time where we cannot afford to be closed shops.
Through this blog, we, as a district, are shouting out. If you have resources that you feel you would willingly share to support such a project, we are interested in hearing from you. In January, we will be discussing internally what it would take to host such a forum and what we would be able to provide to teachers at the end of the day. Our opening premise would be – why can’t we facilitate sharing in a manner that provides teachers with the materials they need and reduces duplication overall? Open source, open access. Of course there are many issues to discuss and consider including quality assurance, cataloguing, indexing, methods of access, copyright and on, but these obstacles should not prevent us from pursuit of such a vision.
So if you are inclined, tweet on over to #sd36learn. Let us know what you’ve got to share and we’ll start collating a list of potential invites with an eye to making this a reality. Past that…stay tuned….who knows what may emerge. The worst that can happen is you tell us you are willing to share. The best that can happen? – you get access to a pile of resources that may save you some of that ever so precious commodity of time.