Empower Teachers First

Someone asked me today whether I could share any insights about OER creation. I have a few thoughts about that, but the one I always come back to is that you have to empower teachers first.

You know that thing on planes where it’s like “In case of sudden decompression, put on your own oxygen mask first. Once it’s securely fastened, help those around you put on theirs?”

That’s OER. If the teacher gets their mask on they are going to save the damn plane, and if they don’t you’re all screwed. 

There are other models of course — every mega-MOOC wanted to do a direct-to-student play back in 2011. The OpenCourseWare movement largely ignored teacher-facing resources for most of its history. In both cases, the lack of focus on reuse by teachers resulted in impact patterns that followed the “Matthew Effect”, with most gains going to the students that came in with privilege, knowledge, and access.  Those who already had knowledge and opportunity gained more opportunity, but those who didn’t never get a foot on that first rung.

The way to help at-risk students and the way to create more diversity in professions lacking it is not to create more and better self-study materials. It is to find teachers that are already teaching the populations you want to attract or help and relentlessly focus on helping them be better and more effective teachers. 

——

I’ve written on this, alone and with Amy Collier, a bunch of times over the years. Here are some posts on it. Some of this is dated but the larger points still hold:

Why I Am Concentrating On Open Teaching Resources (2010)

Openness as a Privilege Multiplier (2011)

Why We Shouldn’t Talk MOOCs as Meritocracies (2012)

Rethinking Online Community in MOOCs Used for Blended Learning (2013, with Amy Collier)

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