OER and Iterative Improvement

Talk about being misunderstood. The above worksheet, on which students were asked to assign certain activities to different genders, made the Facebook rounds recently, providing both liberals and teacher-bashers with their necessary Two Minutes Hate.

Obviously, the worksheet is a poorly executed entry point into a discussion about the ridiculousness of many gender roles, and the forwarding of it by otherwise intelligent readers is a good example of the need for critical reading in the networked age (Reading question one is always “What is the greater context of which this utterance was a part?” — don’t forward until you can answer that) .

But the point Downes makes cannot be over-emphasized — why is a teacher approaching such a difficult and touchy subject with what is clearly a worksheet designed at the last minute? Why don’t people that teach issues like this pool their knowledge on how to design this activity in a way that meets the lesson objectives without forcing students that already get it to fake failure?

There’s a lot of talk nowadays about tying OER to analytics and data, and using that information to iteratively improve OER. I think that’s a good discussion. But I’m reminded of how much benefit sharing can give that doesn’t even reach to that level analysis. Massive failure of educational resources is pretty normal — unclear multiple choice questions, wrongly worded or unclear instructions, activities where students get hung up on step one. ¬†You don’t need analytics to find that out — you just need a community of practice around the OER to spot potential pitfalls and work corrections in over time.

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