A Professional Learning Community Approach for Teacher Development and OER creation - A toolkit/Developing capabilities for OER creation
Open Educational Resources (OER) as 'materials offered freely and openly to use and adapt for teaching, learning, development and research.'
Participatory digital resource creation by PLCs
Availability of quality curricular resources has been identified as critical to Quality Education by the National Curricular Framework 2005 (NCF). Traditionally, materials are created at the state level (by the SCERT) and disseminated to teachers. This has two potential limitations; one - reduced teacher participation in development of the curricular resources, and relative non-contextual content. Participatory resource creation can address both. The NCF position paper on Teacher Education also talks about how spaces of resource creation (resource forums and resource centres) are important aspects of Teacher Professional Development.
Secondly, materials created by the SCERT tend to be 'static'; once created, they are revised at infrequent intervals. This legacy approach is the limitation of a traditional 'print' based methods, which cannot allow for such continuous revision and publishing, as that would be far too expensive. However, 'content' is never 'complete' and needs continuous enrichment. Digital technologies can allow for more frequent revision of materials, which can lead to continuous enrichment.
After teacher professional development, the area in which ICT can make a significant difference is in the creation, revision and sharing of digital curricular content. Digital content creation and sharing provides the PLC an important rationale for its existence. Digital content becomes an important output of the PLC's activities. PLCs of teachers can support a dynamic model of OER creation, revision and sharing.
Creation, revision, sharing and publishing of resources
Teachers can be exposed to a variety of digital methods for developing curricular resources, for different contexts and purposes. Moving beyond the ‘text book’ to include additional formats of resources can create a rich learning environment, in which teachers have a wealth of materials to chose from, based on their needs and priorities. Digital resources can supplement and enrich the existing print based resources (existing print materials can also be digitised). The availability of new digital tools allows for multiple and richer representations of content using images, simulations, videos, info-graphics, semantic maps, etc. Digital methods of transaction using these resources can enrich classroom pedagogies. (refer TPACK framework).
Since digital resources can be easily replicated, the marginal costs of sharing digital content is negligible. Teachers also need a common space where they can access resources for their classroom teaching, and also for TPD. The PLCs can serve as the forums where teachers can share the digital content accessed or created (or accessed and modified) by them, with their colleagues.
Teachers will also learn to access the world wide web for available OER and evaluate these and adapt these for their use. Teacher will revise and re-mix both accessed OER and created OER, to create new OER.
Resources so shared in the PLCs can be vetted and curated and those meeting quality norms can be made available on-line, for easy and universal access.
The NCFTE says, "Teacher education should engage teachers with the curriculum, syllabi and textbooks to critically examine them rather than taking them as ‘given’ and accepted without question". The processes of accessing, creating, reviewing, revising, sharing and publishing OER, definitely serves as an opportunity for teachers to engage with the curriculum, and go beyond the textbook for meeting their teaching needs.
Licensing digital content as Open Educational Resources (OER)
The size of the public education system in most states could help to create a sufficient volume of interaction in the professional learning communities. The networking of teachers using digital technologies can make the large size of the system as a strength, as the large number of teachers participating in the network could be a benefit in terms of the volume of resources created and shared by them. Even if only a very small percentage of teachers from the public education system participate, in absolute numbers, it is likely to be large enough to provide a base for resource creation.
It is necessary to license all these digital resources as ‘open educational resources’ (OER), since that would enable the resources to be freely re-used, revised and re-distributed. This also needs to be formalized through state curricular policy, by which all materials developed using public funding would be released as OER. If explicit licensing as OER is not done, the default copyright would apply, which is 'all rights reserved'. In this case, teachers cannot download and re-use the materials, or make modifications for enrichment.
Reference - OER policy of an educational institution
Program for OER creation, revision and publishing
The initial phase of the PLC program can focus on building digital literacy and capacities for integrating ICT for TPD and practice. Subsequently, a program of OER creation can be designed within the PLC program. The steps for the OER program include:
- Establishing a resource creation group and an resource review group
- Designing the processes of OER creation, review, revision and publishing with the academic review group
- Workshops for capacity building of select teachers in OER access and creation
- Continuing OER creation by the OER teams post workshops, in virtual mode
- Review of OER submitted, by the academic review group
- Rework of the OER and final approval for publishing
- Publishing of OER on the state OER platform
Establishing structures for the OER program
Two teams are required for the OER program - a state resource creation/ editing group and a resource review group. The first group will collaboratively develop the OER on different topics and the second group will review these resources and provide comments and feedback for improvement. Both groups can comprise teachers and teacher educators. The second group will need to have people who have depth of knowledge of the subject matter, pedagogies as well as be familiar with the academic standards and processes of the state. The number of members will depend on the scope of the OER program, preferably, for every grade + subject, the resource creation group should have at least 5 members and the resource review group should have at least 1-2 members.
Designing the processes of OER creation, review, revision and publishing
This will include the design of the content schema of the OER platform, considering parameters such as subject / discipline, class / grade, audience (teacher / student / public), language etc. The processes of content creation and review will need to be formalized, by identifying the people who would take responsibility for these. Parameters for resource review need to be established to provide the grounds for acceptance or rejection of a resource submission. The processes of making the content public on the platform (publishing) too need to be laid out (for instance if only approved materials will be visible or all resources), including identifying the person(s) responsible.
Workshops for capacity building of select teachers in OER access and creation
The OER creation team will participate in face-to-face workshops, which should be organized by subject. In these OER workshops, teachers can be organized into teams and each team assigned (based on interest and or capacities) one or more topics from the state syllabus. Teachers can access existing resources for that topic, create resources using different digital tools, revise available and relevant OER to make new resources. The teams can also do an internal review of the resources and the plenary of teachers can review the work done by different teams during the workshop. The workshop would cover the following aspects:
- Creating OER using different digital tools
- Mathematics - Geogebra, Robocompass, Tux Math
- Science - Phet, Kalzium and Stellarium
- History - Timeline
- Geography - Marble, KGeography
- Language and all subjects - Text (LibreOffice, Freeplane), Image (GIMP, Inkscape), Audio (Audacity) and Video (Vokoscreen, Kdenlive) applications
- Learning to edit and upload materials as well as provide links on the wiki
- identifying other OER and freely available content (including mind maps, videos, images, audio clips, animations, Geogebra applets and other multimedia resources) and linking them appropriately
- Classifying, organizing existing content
- Providing metadata for the content
- Peer review content created by others
- Understanding the structures and processes for contribution, review and feedback of resources
Resource - Agenda for a OER creation workshop - Mathematics, Science English
Continuing OER creation by the OER teams post workshops, in virtual mode
The processes of resource creation does not have to stop with the workshops. The department could have a program of having teachers create resources, in a collaborative manner, over virtual networks and submit the same to resource review teams electronically. The queuing of these could be automatically configured such that resources created for a subject automatically would go to the relevant reviewer / review team.
In addition, the review team can also be part of the virtual forums, so that they can review resources that are shared on these forums as well. Teachers can also be invited to contribute resources to the state OER platform, through a form on the OER platform or by email.
Resource - Specimen contribution form
Review of OER submitted, by the academic review group, rework by creator and approval
The review group will review the resources submitted by teachers. Resources that are 'approved', meaning those that meet pre-specified criteria, can be passed by the review group to the publishing team, for uploading on the state OER platform. If resources need to be reworked before they can be approved, the review team will share back the resources with the creator(s) with feedback for improvement. This process can iterate till the review group approves the resource.
Publishing of OER on the state OER Platform
Once the resource is approved, the 'publishing team' can upload the resource on the state OER platform, following guidelines for the process. The metadata for each and every resource in the repository must be provided, to ensure ease of access later.
As in the case of NROER, content may be of two types - content which has been reviewed for quality assurance and is 'published', i.e. visible to all. Content which has not undergone the process could be configured to be visible only to the person providing the content to the repository, and to the quality assurance team. Or all content, both approved, and waiting for approval could be made publicly visible.
Resource - Check list for resource upload on the state OER platform
At the time of publishing of the resource, all the required metadata for the OER should also be uploaded into the repository. The NCERT uses around 31 metadata elements for its NROER data and these could be adapted by the state OER repository.
State Repository of OER (SROER)
Each state must have its own OER repository where all the content created by the department and by the teachers and teacher educators is shared for use of all.
The resources created by teachers and shared on the PLCs can be reviewed by expert groups, set-up by subject. The resources that are seen as valuable should be made available to all teachers on an on-line space. The on-line space can be designed using a FOSS Content Management System such as MediaWiki. MediaWiki is the software platform that is used by Wikipedia, the world's most popular OER repository. It has several features to support collaborative content creation and editing.
Mediawiki is a software created to support collaborative resource creation by many. It is easy for editors to add digital content in different formats (text, image, audio, video, html etc) and to revise the content added by others.
A larger number of 'widgets' are available to 'embed' resources from other websites into the Wiki page.
Mediawiki keeps history of changes made on each page, allows ‘roll back’ to an earlier version
Editing is password protected and can be configured to be restricted It is easy to add new web pages and link the content to other pages on the site, as well as from other sites (external links)
Each page can be ‘tagged’ and pages can be collaged based on tags
Metadata can be stored for each file and each page using the 'Categories' feature.
An ‘offline’ backup can be taken on DVD / pen drive and shared to access without Internet
National Platform v/s state platforms - For a country like India, with a federal structure, the national level repository Diksha or NROER can be seen as a role model (like NCERT published text books) and states should set up their own OER platforms, just as most of them have designed and published their own text books. State platforms can encourage greater participation of teachers in OER creation, revision and sharing. Over time the state SCERTs should encourage DIETs / district groups to make their own localised resources and publish on state platforms, this can help bring to fruit, the 1995 MHRD guidelines for teacher education, which envisioned district level text books. In theory one platform for India can meet all requirements, in practice, states should have their own spaces for autonomous resource creation, revision, curation and sharing. Hence the resources created by the program should be hosted by the state governments as OER for wide use by teachers, and for adapting, revising and re-distributing.
Telangana has developed the state OER platform using the MediaWiki CMS. Andhra Pradesh also has its state OER platform. The Teacher Network (on which this toolkit is available) can be used as a initial state repository. This site has been established and being maintained by IT for Change. Commonwealth Educational Media Centre for Asia (CEMCA), an inter-governmental organization of the Commonwealth countries helped establish this platform.
Principles of SROER design
Some pointers for designing the state OER repository are listed below:
- Each subject should have its own subject portal. Each subject have sections for curriculum, text books, content, assessment/question papers etc
- Each subject have class wise and chapter wise pages, on each page, the OER relevant to that chapter can be shared
- The page for any topic should have both content and pedagogy, latter through ‘activities’ / ‘projects’ explaining the transaction and assessment processes
- The site will also have external links to all useful resources.
- The same content can also be viewed through ‘resources type’ view (multiple views)
- The platform may be hosting content in more than one language (the platform can be built to support sites for each language, which is offered as a medium of instruction in the state). The sites in the different language should be inter-linked to each other, for all pages/ topics.
Maintenance of the SROER platform
The platform will require technological maintenance, in terms of software upgrades for security and functionality, which will need to be done by the Technology Support Team at the state level. The content categorisation will also need to be regularly updated, to meet new requirements. The MediaWiki Content Management System adopted in both KOER and TROER has many features that support the easy maintenance of the platform.
Case - Telangana Repository of OER (TROER)
Creation of OER in local languages
Collaborative OER creation could provide supplementing and complementing resources that are contextual, to teachers. A second aspect is that of language. Most of the OER developed and available are in the English language, and relatively much lesser in the ‘home’ languages spoke by the learners. For instance the Kannada Wikipedia (Kannada is the official language in the state of Karnataka, and spoken by vast majority of its people) has around 16,000 pages in contrast to the nearly 5 million pages in English. One of the focus areas of the 'participatory resource creation' of teachers in the sub-project 5 of ROER4D research program was the creation of resources in the local language. The study suggested that teachers have been able to create a large volume of resources in Kannada, including by translating and trans-creating materials available in English.
This model can thus enable the creation of contextual OERs in many more Indic languages. What makes this model even more potentially useful for India, is that in each state, the dominant language is different. Languages which are dominant in one state are spoken by people in the neighbouring states (at least in the border areas) as well. Hence OER prepared by Karnataka teachers in the Kannada language can be made available to Kannada language students and teachers in schools in Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.
Most of the 30 state governments in India have their own (distinct) state languages. As per the 2001 census of India, 13 languages are spoken by more than ten million native speakers and 21 languages by more than a million. This requires OER in these languages, which the PLC teachers can support the creation of.
Toolkit for creating OER
For more information on how teachers can use these tools, please refer to the Teachers' toolkit for creating and re-purposing OER using FOSS
- Collaborative resource creation can be a challenge. Teachers need to learn and internalize working together to create resources, working both through face-to-face interactions and through virtual networks.
- Quality assurance of resources created by the teachers can be quite difficult. To do a reasonably good review, expertise in content (subject matter), pedagogy of the subject and technology is necessary. This can be shared across members of the review team
- Configuring and maintaining a technology platform can be a challenge for a state education department, due to lack of suitable staff. However, as ICT becomes an important and integral part of school education, education departments will need to set-up technology support teams, at state and district levels, hiring suitably or taking on contract, suitable resource persons.
- Use of OER by teachers can also pose a challenge. OER may not be used due to several factors including non-availability of required infrastructure at the school, teachers not sensing a need to go beyond their text books, lack of time to explore OER and adapt for their teaching needs etc.