Who's ready for another round—of OER? We are, and we've serving up the good stuff: strategies and conversations about leading with these evolving and powerful sources for your learners. When we last examined open educational resources in SLC (October 2017), many of us in the school library community were growing accustomed to the terminology and new search tools, recognizing familiar resources that qualify as OER, and wondering about potential of OER in practice. That last topic includes—not insignificantly— the time and effort these options might require of school librarians.
You may have reached the point where you've progressed beyond your initial foray into open educational resources. Now, you're routinely evaluating open educational sites and integrating sources into instruction, building and updating curated lists or guides within your online catalog and library website, and making regular recommendations of OER to teachers and students. In this way, OER have become a part of your library's collection development. This means you may be working on or thinking about formalizing policies pertaining to OER and perhaps reflecting on what this category of information means for your role and responsibilities as an information professional.
To help me think through OER as a component of collection development, and to formulate a notion of what leading with OER might entail for school librarians, I revisited a few related documents and texts, including these:
- AASL's Developing Collections to Empower Learners, written by Sue Kimmel
- The Collection Program in Schools: Concepts and Practices, by Kay Bishop
- Reference Sources and Services for Youth, by Meghan Harper
I also considered academic standards and frameworks, namely the AASL National School Library Standards (particularly the competencies for School Librarians and School Libraries), the ISTE Standards for Educators, and the Future Ready Framework for Librarians. I considered those skills and competencies that school librarians know well, as well as newer expectations. From this reading and mulling, questions around three themes started to percolate for me regarding OER and leadership: 1) fit with collection development practices, 2) potential for participation from the learning community, and 3) professional learning and growth. Here are just a few of these thoughts and questions.
First, what are the core principles and processes of collection development for school libraries, and how do these apply to OER? One key process of collection development that comes to mind is selection, during which school librarians apply evaluation criteria like content, authority, and format to deem appropriateness and value of sources for their particular learners, purpose, and setting. In Developing Collections to Empower Learners, Sue Kimmel poses the reflective question, "If a new format were to come on board tomorrow, would we be able to apply the same selection criteria in use now?" (p. 42). When it comes to OER, then, we might ask, what is an effective balance of established selection protocol and rigor, just-in-time delivery and efficient evaluation, and nuance that accommodates new content and formats? One characteristic of OER that stands to inform selection is actually search capabilities: tools like OER Commons give users robust, education-specific options for finding the best sources for all learners and diverse needs—and provide opportunity to practice and refine educator standards such as those competencies within the Shared Foundation "Curate" in the National School Library Standards, and these Educator standards from ISTE:
2b Advocate for equitable access to educational technology, digital content and learning opportunities to meet the diverse needs of all students.
2c Model for colleagues the identification, exploration, evaluation, curation and adoption of new digital resources and tools for learning. (https://www.iste.org/standards/for-educators)
Next, what are the means for a learning community to participate in integrating OER into collection development processes? Kay Bishop explains that "collection-related activities provide a range of opportunities for involvement," and suggests bringing in stakeholders that include administrators, teachers, and students to take part in evaluation of policies and materials (2013, p. 4). School librarians might think back: In what ways have I shared OER with students? Teachers? Administrators? Families and community? In what ways have others in the learning community contributed to our collection of OER or the evaluation of resources? Is there interest in developing a unified model for access to and use of OER and OER lessons in a district, like librarian Kate McMillan described on the KQ Blog (https://knowledgequest.aasl.org/nvusd-libraries-oer-reflections/)? If so, how might voices other than the librarian's express information needs and preferences? How might OER open up ways to facilitate personalized professional learning for colleagues, as prompted by the Future Ready Librarians Framework?
Finally, what approaches to professional self-appraisal or even inquiry might be useful to guide librarians as they work to incorporate deeper, more expansive use of OER as part of collection development? One idea for reflection is a simple "lens" exercise. First, focus the lens in to identify what resources were used in a specific collaborative lesson or unit. What were students' experiences, both observed and reported? What were successes, and what is needed, particularly with regard to equity, language/reading skills, and other issues of access? What consideration has been extended to cultural and social contexts of information needs, as Harper suggests (2011)? Then, open up that view more widely: what can be applied from this experience with OER (at any phase: searching for, selecting, integrating into instruction) to other learning? Perhaps it's helpful to track your learning, progress, and needs within the steps of an inquiry process. As I look over examples and experiences I've gathered about OER in practice, I find myself asking: what have I learned conceptually, and what are more discrete units of knowledge? And as I read this issue's articles, I wonder, what do I need to practice and learn more about?
Alliance for Excellent Education. Future Ready Librarians Framework. June 2018. https://futureready.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Library_flyer_download.pdf
American Association of School Librarians. National School Library Standards for Learners, School Librarians, and School Libraries. American Library Association, 2018.
Bishop, Kay. The Collection Program in Schools: Concepts and Practices. 5th Edition. Libraries Unlimited, 2013.
Harper, Meghan. Reference Sources and Services for Youth. Neal Schuman, 2011.
Kimmel, Sue. Developing Collections to Empower Learners. American Library Association, 2014.