Unfortunately, to this date the pandemic is still ongoing and continues to disrupt and hinder teaching and learning in the Brazilian public school system, which due to several Covid-19 outbreaks, has been required to suspend face-to-face classes and resume emergency remote teaching (ERT) (Paula & Pinhoni, 2022). Nonetheless, we now have more tools and resources to face the pandemic such as Covid-19 vaccines and Covid-19 protocols that attempt to ensure that schools will not be shut down for long periods to mitigate learning impacts of extended school closures, especially for the most vulnerable children.  In fact, one of the recommendations and good practices outlined by the Innocenti Research Briefs (2020) report is “to identify and reach out to vulnerable children who are at greatest risk of not returning to schools” (p.1). To this end, the Brazilian Senate has recently approved a bill that places priority on active searches for those students who did not return school after face-to-face classes resumed, diagnostic evaluation of what has been learned and the need for public actions that help families to get involved in this challenging process for students (Pimenta, 2022).

On a more optimistic note, though, data from this study shows that the pandemic also created invaluable opportunities for teachers to innovate their pedagogical practices and become active agents for change, not just in implementing technological innovations but also in creating and using Open Educational Resources (OER) to deliver lessons. As Schleicher (2020) underscores in the OECD Education and Skills Today report,

it will be crucial that the many good experiences learned during the pandemic will not be lost when things return to “normal” but provide inspiration for the further development of education. That is also about finding better ways to recognise, reward and celebrate success, to do whatever is possible to make it easier for innovators to take risks and encourage the emergence of new ideas (para. 21).

Data collected from this study showed that it is within this spirit of self-improvement and being innovative and creative that the participants of the study appeared to position themselves. Data also revealed that participants plan to continue using OER in their lessons and may now have more opportunities to disseminate OER in their schools and to their peers. The pandemic, which forcefully resorted teachers to using technology and Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) for teaching purposes, advanced the notion that the future of education may be more hybrid. Blended learning may be more commonplace regardless of the technology used and existing infrastructure barriers. However,

“it is important to build on the already ongoing efforts to establish an infrastructure for online and remote learning, and to continue to develop the capacity of students and teachers to learn and to teach in that way (Schleicher, 2020, para. 18).

Lastly, it is my hope that these lessons learned from the pandemic will inspire both school staff and teachers to also aspire to make significant improvements and bring the much needed change to the Brazilian public school system. 

I have just recently concluded the study “Use of OER and OEP by Brazilian Public School Teachers during the Covid-19 pandemic”, made possible by the GO-GN Research Fellowship.  The objectives of the study were twofold: 1) To investigate if and how Brazilian K-12 public school teachers used OER and OEPs during ERT and 2) To develop guidelines aimed at improving educational practices and collaborative work focused on better coping with times of crisis and/or hybrid learning in the Brazilian public K-12 sector.

A qualitative methodology was implemented that comprised holding forty-five-to-sixty-minute online interviews with six participants to collect preliminary data followed by inviting participants to participate in one and a half hours online workshop aimed at presenting preliminary findings from the online interviews. The online workshop was aimed at validating preliminary data through member checking and at extracting additional data to better inform the second objective of this study. Preliminary findings, workshop findings, methodology used and limitations to the study have been previously addressed in Blog Posts #1 and #2.

Final Results

Results are organized in three categories: use of OER and OEPs during ERT using rich, thick description and quotes from participants; participants’ recommendations and/or suggestions for integrating the use OER and OEPs in teacher professional development programs; and guidelines aimed at improving educational practices and collaborative work focused on better coping with times of crisis and/or hybrid learning in the Brazilian public K-12 sector.

Use of OER and OEPs

Regarding integration of OER and OEPs into practice, results highlight the evidence that teachers had varying degrees of expertise as four of them had just recently concluded a course on OER. Reusing practices ranged from adapting existing materials to developing OER from scratch. Findings revealed that for teachers it is still a challenge to find OER in repositories, use CC licenses and attribute them correctly when sharing their resources with other peers or in repositories. Teachers often resort to using OER that are in the public domain and there is still a a general lack of knowledge of the difference between OER and other educational resources available on the Internet. OEPs were used during the pandemic predominantly to assist other teachers with ERT and to a lesser degree to share instructional material.   

Below are direct quotes from participants on their use of OER and OEPs during this period:

“I used a lot of free access stuff that I adapted, I tried to make a lot of my stuff available, when I made an interactive wall, I even posted it on social media. Many people can reuse in a way that will also reach their reality”

“I made an eBook where each of them brought a part of emotional education [sic], some brought experiments”

“I used books available on the internet and texts also in the public domain. Some images too, in addition to the textbook”

“I used some platforms [sic]. Because as I teach Literature, Portuguese and Spanish, three subjects, I used OERs a lot. I produced my materials, for example, when I created something for literature, I took some things. Not the images, because some of the images I had. Because, as I said, there are some things that I used that are not openly licensed, so I don’t even share them”

“Yes, including material that I had produced later and also works in the public domain. I tried to insert it highlighting to the families that this material was produced by the teacher. About six months ago I went to see it and it was there for analysis, the first was a video I created, the second were some fruit cards, I have not yet gotten any feedback. I created these materials from scratch”

“I helped several colleagues; I had a colleague who couldn’t open the meeting on Google Meet and the school allowed teachers to pair up”

“I participate in a lot of different discipline groups, and we exchange material a lot, yes, there was an exchange, I also helped others. Including the schools themselves [sic], they had a Google drive that shared the lesson plans, so despite not having the ideal license it turned out to be a shared OER”

“Our conversations were more about doubts during that period. Some teachers who were not very tech-savvy really needed our help. It was a difficult year, the demand was very high because with each activity I did with students, I felt obliged to respond to the students, correct them and return the activity to them. As they didn’t have any personal access to us, my concern was not to leave open gaps for too long”

“There are teachers who do cool things but they do them alone or literally have a certain dislike of the school management. Often teachers do cool projects, but their projects are not valued to the point that they go beyond the school. What’s missing is a culture of collaboration, and it needs to be built”

Participants’ Recommendations and/or Suggestions for Integrating the use OER and OEPs in Teacher Professional Development programs

Teachers’ bottom-up buy-in adoption of OER is always more effective than any top-down government or institutional OER policy mandate (Cox & Trotter, 2016). And an unexpected upside to the pandemic, particularly during ERT, was that it enabled teachers to take online courses since they were working from home. Four teachers who participated in this study reported they took the online OER course during this period. The other two participants had prior experience using OER before the pandemic. Teachers reported the course greatly motivated them to engage in OER adoption and use, which demonstrates there was effective bottom-up buy-in adoption of OER. Thus, participants’ recommendations and/or suggestions for integrating the use OER and OEPs in teacher professional development programs include:

  • Course load for OER courses should range from 20 to 60 hours or be delivered in at least two monthly two-hour teacher professional development meetings
  • Created and/or adapted OER should be deposited in repositories and seminars, or workshops should be held for teachers to share their experiences
  • Have teachers who have prior knowledge on OER available to deliver training to help other teachers understand and reflect on the use of OER
  • Develop an interdisciplinary plan based on the use of an OER
  • Use experienced teachers to deliver professional development on OER
  • Show possibilities in terms of technologies that can be used and real examples as well as the step-by-step creation of an OER and the use of licenses
  • For dissemination purposes and to make an OER be more widespread, develop a simple and objective resource for starters
  • At the end of an OER course, ask participants to create an OER (learning by doing)

These recommendations and/or suggestions show the relevance of teachers’ agency as curriculum changers and game-changers in addition to their leadership skills in spreading a culture of sharing that is not widespread and quite often neglected by school administrators. During this period of economic stagflation and continuous budget cuts to education by both Federal and State governments, the need to adopt and use OER has become imperative.

Guidelines aimed at Improving Educational Practices and Collaborative Work

With basis on all data collected and analyzed I have come up with some guidelines aimed at improving educational practices and collaborative work focused on better coping with times of crisis and/or hybrid learning in the Brazilian public K-12 sector, which I hope will be useful in other contexts, K-12 or other, as well as in other countries.

  • As the use of email, mobile phones and Google class apps were used as ICTs during ERT and both students and teachers now feel more comfortable and confident using these technologies, hybrid or blended learning approaches should be consistently integrated into face-to-face classes. As one participant noted, “the teacher who doesn’t know how to use these digital resources will become obsolete”.
  • Digital resources and OER should be incorporated in lessons to complement traditional classes, which are mainly based on the use of textbooks.
  • Digital resources and OER should be created using active methodologies to foster student engagement, motivation, and learning.
  • Teacher mediation to teach students how to use technology for pedagogical uses continues to be crucial.
  • Sharing of knowledge, instructional material and innovative pedagogical practices should be encouraged by school management. To achieve this, school management could set up Google Docs or use other open source software sharing systems where teachers have an opportunity to share innovations with school management and colleagues and obtain feedback. The idea would be to build a shared, centralized idea bank.
  • Teachers who already have experience using OER should be in charge of delivering teacher professional development programs. This training could be delivered during teachers’ weekly meetings, which are aimed at planning, discussing, and establishing goals for improving the delivery of instruction at school.
  • Teachers who participate in OER training programs and then go on to using, creating, and sharing them could be provided with incentives such as open badges, awards or small stipends.
  • School OER mentors and trainers should provide clear examples of how OER can be integrated in a Math or a Science class, for instance, in addition to providing the step-by-step creation of an OER and the use of licenses. Upon completion of training, teachers who participated in the professional development program should be able to present an artifact (i.e., an OER). The “learning by doing” approach mentioned by participants in their recommendations and/or suggestions for integrating the use OER and OEPs in teacher professional development programs appears to be very effective (Vladimirschi, 2018).
  • Have OER teacher trainers or teachers who have received training on OER use keep records of best practices. Wikis could be used to this end. Best practices could be disseminated and shared with other schools of the public-school network.
  • OER experts, on a voluntary basis, could help oversee these OER professional development programs to ensure teachers are using and attributing CC licenses correctly.
  • Reflection on practice, lessons learnt during the pandemic, innovations made by teachers during ERT should be critical components of teacher professional development programs and/or teachers’ weekly meetings to enable not only new ideas to bloom but to also promote collaborative and cooperative work in the post-pandemic era. These components could also help build a culture of collaboration.

The guidelines presented above are a work in progress and do not attempt to encompass all problems and challenges faced during the use of ERT. Nor do they address problems such as lack of adequate school infrastructure, access to WI-FI connectivity and digital exclusion in schools as these are primarily governmental issues. However, they are evidence-based and present some plausible easy to implement solutions, which could ensure that innovative actions practiced during ERT are now shared and implemented in the face-to-face environment.  The silver lining to the pandemic is the disruption to the education system providing a unique moment to revitalize it with enabling support from ICTs, OER, OEPs and blended learning. Ultimately, innovation must be aimed at improving learning outcomes, which is central to the Brazilian K-12 public school sector.

Thank you GO-GN!  

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank GO-GN for believing in my research project and for this opportunity for funding and visibility as an open researcher in open education. As a follow-up to this project, I would like to publish this study in a journal. It would also be very rewarding to publish the results of this study together with other GO-GN alumni. As a leader and key player in the field of education, a suggestion to GO-GN, would be to continue granting post-doctoral scholarship opportunities or longer fellowships through agreements with national and international agencies. This would lead to further strengthening the diversity of its members to join efforts in advocating for open education.

References

Cox, G., & Trotter, H. (2016). Institutional culture and OER policy: How structure, culture, and agency mediate OER policy potential in South African universities. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 17(5),1-18. doi:10.19173/irrodl.v17i5.2523

Nugroho, Dita; Pasquini, Chiara; Reuge, Nicolas; Amaro, Diogo (2020). COVID-19: How are Countries Preparing to Mitigate the Learning Loss as Schools Reopen? Trends and emerging good practices to support the most vulnerable children, Innocenti Research Briefs no. 2020-20.

Paula, A.F. & Pinhoni, M. (2022, May 19). Após surtos de Covid, três escolas públicas suspendem aulas presenciais e retomam ensino remoto em SP.g1. Retrieved from https://g1.globo.com/sp/sao-paulo/educacao/noticia/2022/05/19/apos-surtos-de-covid-escolas-publicas-suspendem-aulas-presenciais-e-retomam-ensino-remoto-em-sp.ghtml

Pimenta, P. (2022, April 8). Educação busca superar estragos da pandemia. Agência Senado. Retrieved from https://www12.senado.leg.br/noticias/infomaterias/2022/03/educacao-busca-superar-estragos-da-pandemia

Schleicher, A. (2020, September 10). The shadows of the coronavirus education crisis. OECD Education and Skills Today. Retrieved from https://oecdedutoday.com/shadows-coronavirus-education-crisis/

Vladimirschi, V. (2018). Professional Development Guidelines for OER: A Case Study of Brazilian Fundamental Education Public School Teachers. http://hdl.handle.net/10791/266

Cover Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay