The Future of Learning Technologies and Open Educational Resources

Photo of tablet on a desk with a cup of pens in the background

By Austin Beck

In this blog post, I share a few personal thoughts about the future of learning with technology and the role of open educational resources (OER) in that future. This isn't an exhaustive report on ed tech and OER, but more of a framework for how I think about this work.

Often, when schools adopt technology in the classroom they implement a software that is extremely aligned with their standards and that takes students on a very linear path through the subject they are learning. I've seen this type of implementation frequently in my own experience researching ed-tech implementations. The pedagogical approach baked into these softwares includes an explanation of a topic or process and then several exercises to test or practice the new information. This approach to learning can help students prepare for end of year exams and often leads to improved test scores, but I hope for more in the future of ed-tech.

Memorizing facts and practicing skills isn't bad - it's actually an essential part of deep learning. But as any good teacher will tell you, this is just one method and should not be the only method. It is the same when it comes to technology. If we use technology to just help students memorize facts and practice skills, then we are delivering a very narrow kind of education to our students and severely limiting the purpose and potential of ed-tech. The promise of learning technology is its potential to take us beyond what we are currently able to do in education. It should not create an education model that focuses on a few cognitive outcomes while leaving behind other critical outcomes like exploration, collaboration, problem solving, engagement, and self regulation. 

Additionally, ed tech implementations today tend to rely too much on technology and not enough on the teachers. Technology should not replace the role of the educator. It should be a tool that supports skilled teachers in leading the way as they rely on principles of good instruction. When improving our schools, we need to go beyond technology and remember that it is quality instruction that enables meaningful learning - a deep and lasting change - and this should should be at the core of our efforts in training, policy, and learning design. After this, technology can come in as a tool to support learning and extend the ability of teachers to teach in ways they have never been able to teach before. 

Sal Khan said it best in his book The One World Schoolhouse when he wrote, "It's not enough to put a bunch of computers and smartboards into classrooms. The idea is to integrate the technology into how we teach and learn; without meaningful and imaginative integration, technology in the classroom could turn out to be just one more very expensive gimmick."

This fall, I worked on open initiatives at CCSSO and through my work I learned about open educational resources (OER) and their potential to expand the reach and quality of instruction. Characteristics inherent to OER not only allow for increased access to quality resources, but they allow teachers to easily revise, mix, and distribute educational content and tools. Because of the flexibility and openness, when teachers use OER there is an inherent trust that they know how to use the resources to best teach their students and they are given the freedom to do so without constraint.

Many OER resources (which include documents, video, audio, games, and software) and tools for using OER are being developed right now to support the work of educators. Currently, there are limitations with OER, but in the future these tools will get better at providing teachers the content and support they need for instruction and they will become easier to use so that teachers can teach and students can learn in any context.

OER are a critical piece of the future of ed-tech that will make education more equitable and will improve the way we teach and learn in our classrooms. Integrating OER into ed tech is one way to help us to break away from rote approaches to learning, and it will allow teachers to use their skill and craft to shape the lessons they teach by developing resources and tools that best help their students.  


Photo by Maurizio Pesce


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