Response to Comment on OER Post

Thank you for your response to my post. It is an excellent point you make, and one I’ve actually debated with a friend of mine that works in the newspaper business. I always say how the present digital climate of free news online empowers the reader and allows such a diversity of ideas to be shared to the masses. He replies that this approach makes qualified, sourced material harder to create and support without a pay-model to fund it.

I will admit that I went slightly too far in my original comments on having OER’s freely available to educators whenever possible. I was a history and political science in college. I went back to school to learn how to be a teacher. Because of this, I feel very comfortable reviewing OER’s and selecting the one’s that I know are relevant and factual. However, that being said, this is not the case for the majority of teachers in America. They most likely went to school first and foremost to be teachers, and probably have a weaker background in the content itself (at least where Social Studies is concerned).

Because of this, I cede that there needs to be peer-received content vetted by experts that is available to educators who are not qualified to do the vetting themselves. However, I still say that it should be available for free to educators. This is problematic at best; content that requires qualified experts to create, who need to be paid a commensurate compensation, yet still made free to its main consumers — educators.

I think this can be done by providing funding from the federal government for education initiatives and content creation. Why not set up an agency within the Department of Education that funds private, independent content creators? It would be a way to seed OER’s and at the same time still allow them to be available to those that need them most — teachers. It would provide jobs, encourage innovation and education, and support the educators themselves.

A second possibility would be to lean on institutes of higher education to help provide OER’s. A college like Princeton that has a $37 billion endowment and adds three or four billion a year to the fund can spare a few million to support its education department in the creation of OER’s. It could be excellent development for its teacher’s college and its history department.

There are dozens of universities across the nation that are awash in endowment funds. They can not possibly find the means to spend this money. Why not support their own colleges, as well as educators around the country, by investing in OER’s? A perfect example of this is Stanford, who has made their Reading Like a Historian content available for free online. What an excellent use of a school with billions to spend, who’s billions in profits each year are tax-exempt, and who’s ultimate goal is the education of people in America.

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