Technology Integration

Open Educational Resources (OER): Resource Roundup

An educators’ guide to open educational resources with information about online repositories, curriculum-sharing websites, and sources for lesson plans and activities.

November 4, 2013 Updated December 4, 2015

OER, a part of the global open content movement, are shared teaching, learning, and research resources available under legally recognized open licenses -- free for people to reuse, revise, remix, and redistribute. Why are OER important? High-quality OER can save teachers significant time and effort on resource development and advance student learning inside and outside the classroom. Further, open sharing of resources has the potential to fuel collaboration, encourage the improvement of available materials, and aid in the dissemination of best practices. For more about the potential of OER, check out "5-Minute Film Festival: Why Open Education Matters."

Getting Started

Sharing resources: The nonprofit Creative Commons offers free, easy-to-use copyright licenses that allow you to specify which rights to your works you want to reserve and which rights you'd like to waive. Read more at "About Creative Commons" and "About the Licenses." If you are a state or school leader, you might want to check out "Open Educational Resources and Collaborative Content Development: A Practical Guide for State and School Leaders," a downloadable report from the International Association for K-12 Online Learning.

Quality considerations: With all the promise of OER, some challenges remain. One of these is assuring the quality of resources. Achieve's Open Educational Resources includes a set of downloadable rubrics that can help districts, teachers, and other users evaluate OER for quality and determine the level of alignment to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Additional rubrics for evaluating OER quality have been collected as part of the Washington OER Project. It's worth noting that many of the larger repositories for OER will include copyright information, and their materials will typically adhere to some established criteria.

How to Find OER

  • Open Educational Resources Meet Instructional Design, by Andrew Marcinek (2015) To find the best OER, consider the skills you're teaching, how content aligns with standards, ease of assessment, and whether you'll provide an active, creative experience.
  • 20 Top Pinterest Tips, by Vicki Davis (2015) Pinterest is an educator's dream come true because of its many options for curating and sharing ideas (including OER), displaying student work, and building a PLN.
  • Supporting Practice With Emerging Technologies, by Sandra Schamroth Abrams (2015) As we incorporate new technologies in the classroom, we must keep the learning relevant and meaningful. Here are some considerations and resources to help you choose.
  • Transitioning to Open Educational Resources, by Andrew Marcinek (2013) Marcinek explains why and how Burlington Public Schools transitioned to Open Educational Resources and discusses four OER options to get started.
  • 5-Minute Film Festival: Copyright and Fair Use for Educators, by VideoAmy (2013) In K-12 education, it's a challenge to navigate the copyright and fair use waters. What can educators use? How can they use it? In this compilation, very relevant to the discussion around OER, VideoAmy has collected some fun, engaging videos to help teachers and students understand the confusing subject.
  • A Primer on Curriculum-Sharing Sites, by Vanessa Vega (2011) Though suggestions are from 2011, this overview of useful curriculum-sharing sites is still relevant today.
  • Radical Curriculum Sharing at the Open High School of Utah, by Todd Finley (2011) Browse a curated list of high-quality, open source, English language arts curriculum websites.

Open Lesson Plans, Courses, and Activities

  • 5-Minute Film Festival: 10 Sources for Free Lesson Plans, by Amy Erin Borovoy (2013) Exploring free lesson planning resources can be overwhelming. Some are extremely useful, and others not so much. Here, VideoAmy shares a list of 10 of her favorite lesson planning tools available, as well as a playlist of videos to help teachers utilize them.

Take a look at some other Edutopia-curated lists, many of which include open materials, by Davis, VideoAmy, and others:

English Language Arts


Science and the Environment

Social Studies

The Arts

Other Events and Themes

Open Alternatives to Textbooks

  • Teaching With Web-Based Resources, by Edwige Simon (2015) Web-based teaching starts with identifying and vetting your resources, creating a lesson plan, and developing online handouts that provide information and encourage student participation.
  • Moving Beyond the Textbook, by Andrew Marcinek (2014) Welcome to the days of OER, PLCs, and student-supported tech as education transitions from static textbooks to connect students' learning with the world around them.
  • 6 Open Educational Resources, by Andrew Marcinek (2013) Marcinek presents his six favorite open educational resources, introducing a wide world of curriculum materials as alternatives to textbooks, resources for inspiring your students toward creative exploration and inquiry.
  • Building Your Own Textbook, by Audrey Watters (2011) Watters looks at the digital possibilities for customizing and updating texts -- at a fraction of what the hard copy would cost.
  • David Thornburg on Open-Source Textbooks, by Betty Ray (2011) Thornburg on how the open-source movement is transforming the textbook industry.

Additional Resources on the Web

Open Repositories, Collections, and Tools

Open Books and Textbooks

Open Courses and Learning Modules

Blogs, Articles and Other Resources

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