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Big OER, Little OER

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One learning context I have not really explored in my MAODE so far is my status as a Sunday School teacher! I have, for over 30 years, been teaching children of all ages (from creche to teenagers) Bible stories, Christian values and faith-based approaches to life.

It is this context which has helped me to distinguish best between big and small OER!

Despite the decline in religious attendance in the UK, the market for Sunday School materials is clearly robust as there is a wide range of materials available for purchase. For many years these were in the form of books and photocopiables but now nearly all ae web based. These materials offer a weekly syllabus (often part of half termly curriculums) and there are detailed lesson plans with multiple activities to select from according to your context. Since the services becoming web-based there has been an increase in the use of audio, visual and slideshow activities as well as the more familiar games, craft and worksheet type activities. These resources are centrally produced by various Christian organizations by people with experience and expertise. They are usable, reusable, customizable and – to some extent – sensitive to context. This is, within the Christian world at least, an example of big OER.

The advantages of these resources are that they are well developed and reliable. An entire lesson of activities can be selected from a wide range of choices and adapting activities to suit is straightforward and at the discretion of the teacher planning the session. The disadvantages include cost (the resources are good value but not free) and occasional doctrinal differences (ideological differences). The teachers must have access to the web and usually a printer and some other resources. It can also take control of the subject matter away from the teachers where material is dated and following it in order is recommended.

If a church chooses not to use these kinds of resources they often develop their own curriculum. I also have experience of this as a Kids Club worker – Kids Alive is a Friday evening club I have been involved in for 16 years. We could not find resources which matched our vision for Kids Alive so developed our own. We now have a four-year rolling programme and simply repeat the years in sequence. We have created a large resource which we use as a guide – we often make alterations to fit the current context but the ‘jumping off point’ it set. I can imagine that churches who develop their own curriculum may share their work with other groups, but the resources will be much more context specific and less full developed. The potential for small groups, like churches, to share their work is great and potentially untapped. Hundreds of people may well plan much the same lesson every week! A central bank of resources could be very useful – but things such as colouring sheets, work sheets and puzzles can already be found. Many of these banks contain resources previously created by an individual and uploaded for the use of others.

This kind of little OER is undoubtedly less slick and less ‘complete’ but also more organic. It’s much more collaborative and shared. The economy of sharing, rather than buying, creates a different kind of value to the resources.


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