Open Educational Resources are the Key to Empowering Today’s Teachers

A seasoned teacher and education professor weighs in on the advantages of OER for K-12. 

GUEST COLUMN | by Dr. Nicole Arrighi

As the education technology coordinator in the Department of Teaching and Learning at Tennessee State University, I aim to help future educators feel equipped to lead engaged learning. Before I entered the world of higher education, I taught 4th and 5th grade at Metro-Nashville Public Schools. I was once that new teacher trying to find my way, so I know the challenges my students will likely face when they become educators after graduation. One big challenge is finding free, flexible resources that engage students. To tackle this challenge, I encourage them to use open educational resources (OER).

One big challenge is finding free, flexible resources that engage students. To tackle this challenge, I encourage them to use open educational resources (OER)

High-Quality Materials for Everyone

Guided by the idea that high-quality educational materials should be available to everyone, OER are educational materials that are free for educators and students to use, customize, and share. OER are openly licensed which means that educators can easily customize everything from a single lesson to an entire textbook and engage students with content that’s fresh and relevant.

In my classroom, I not only use OER, but also have my students source OER for their assignments. For example, for a media share assignment, my teacher candidates locate a total of six OER to support their curriculum (two videos, two websites, and two instructional applications). They also complete a review and rubric to validate its educational value so it can be shared with their peers. At the end of the course, my students showcase what they have learned by compiling a technology integration resource guide that can help teachers effectively incorporate technology into their curricula.

OER Benefits K-12 As Well

OER are regularly used in post-secondary education as many institutions use them to provide cost savings to their students. However, OER can offer many benefits for K-12 students and educators as well and should be considered by administrators more often. When the COVID-19 pandemic began, student teachers and first-year educators found OER useful because they could intentionally select resources that would promote engagement. At the time, many students were unfamiliar with digital learning tools, but they were able connect to their lessons in the absence of their usual commercial textbooks thanks to OER.

My students will enter a variety of environments when they become educators, so I empower them to know where to look for the materials they are going to need. Depending on where they are based, there could be varying levels of connectivity, access, and support, but regardless of the situation, my future educators will know where to source OER and how to revise them to meet their students’ needs. Sometimes new teachers can feel like they are on their own, but my hope is that if they are well versed in the world of OER that they will be able to handle anything.

With Remote, Seeing OER Advantages

After the pandemic hit, many educators had to reevaluate their teaching methods. They couldn’t rely on commercial materials the way they had in the past after switching to remote instruction, so it allowed OER to gain traction. When our campus closed and students were sent home, my students already knew just what to do and didn’t miss out on any instruction thanks to OER. Some of the more resistant educators were finally able to see the advantages of OER and were more open to learning about it.

Especially in today’s political climate, it’s important for students to feel seen and represented in their classrooms. One of the benefits of OER is that there is an entire arena of peer-reviewed content that can lend itself to either side of a discussion leading to unbiased discourse. If the conversations on certain topics in history, for example, are largely dominated by certain viewpoints, educators can find and include high-quality resources with the perspectives of often underrepresented groups. In the rapidly evolving world we live in, OER will help these future educators take on current events in an informed, yet culturally sensitive manner.

It’s clear that OER offer a solution to many of the challenges we face in education today, so I will continue to serve as an advocate and teach my students to use them. My hope is that with time and increased awareness, we can overcome some of the existing barriers and promote greater OER adoption in primary, secondary, and post-secondary education.

Nicole Kendall Arrighi, Ed.D., is Assistant Dean of Teacher Education and Professor at Tennessee State University. She taught in Metro-Nashville Public Schools and earned her B.S. at University of Tennessee at Martin, M.S. at Peabody College of Vanderbilt University, and her Ed.D, at Tennessee State University College of Education. Connect on LinkedIn

  • Raymond M Rose


    Nicole: You missed one important element in reviewing digital resources. Accessibility. There’s a requirement that digital resources be reviewed for accessibility and not used in instruction if not fully accessible. Do you even include accessibility in that rubric you have your students use to review materials?

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