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OER in Pandemic times: Emergency, Openness and Agency

I am currently finishing the study Adoption of Open Educational Resources and Repositories in overcoming the educational crisis during COVID-19 pandemic by K12 teachers in Uruguay, made possible by the GO-GN Research Fellowship. The aim was to investigate the agency of teachers of public primary schools in their practices of creating, reusing and sharing resources, focusing on how these processes were developed within the situation of extreme vulnerability of the educational communities. 

A qualitative methodology was implemented, based on a Latin American critical conceptual model of the adoption of OER (Rodés, 2019). Individual interviews with school principals and  group interviews with teachers, from 3 schools, built the case studies: a school in Montevideo (capital of Uruguay), a school in the metropolitan area, and a school in a province located in the north of the country. This diversity made it possible to provide variability and comparability to the study.


Last month I presented the preliminary results in a session of the OERxDomains Conference

hosted by Joe Wilson, recorded here.  

Findings are organized in three categories: Integration into practice, Perceptions and attitudes, and Personal impacts.

Regarding integration into practice, results highlight the evidence of new practices of use of OER currently available in national repositories and educational platforms. Reusing practices involve few adaptations, apart from “inspiration” based reuse. Sharing practices are observed between peers and on a “human scale” in the educational institution or between nearby schools, collaborative practices are valued. There is a general lack of knowledge of the difference between OER and other educational resources available on the Internet. Creation practices are highlighted, in general involved teaching teams. The leadership role of the school principal is significant, as is the pre-existence of a professional community in which in-service training is shared. Also significant is the role of teachers already trained in ed-tech, to promote and lead the work of other teachers.   

Perceptions and attitudes showed many lessons learned in the process of becoming agents in the curriculum change

“Teacher’s role is fundamental in the classroom”
“I do not know if authorities became aware of the amount of resources created by teachers in these three months”
“an infinite world of possibilities”
“it has a lot to do with our biographies and trajectories as well. At least the fear has been lost, you had to learn […] and was someone who supported another”
“Returning to the resources, […] to be able to work, to analyze didactically, to be able to reuse them, to redesign them according to the purpose […], changing the pedagogical intention, […] to be able to take advantage of them. To find meaning from that place, and appropriate them”.

Meanwhile, powerful representations show the opening to a new paradigm

“But now [the technology] looked for its place by itself”
“Now we are prepared for 2021”
“It was a shared learning”
“It was a community”
“Quite an experience!”
“It was to continue or leave teaching”

These perceptions are influenced by personal impacts, both at the level of their personal identity (emotional impact, the quarantine, uncertainty, tiredness, recognition and personal growth) and their teaching professional identity (relationship with technology, agency, meaning of teaching, professional satisfaction, teaching career, professional development and teacher’s trajectory).

Those preliminary findings show the relevance of teachers’ agency as curriculum changers, and the leadership of those responsible for an educational community. The need to drastically change teaching practices towards the virtual modality generated by the health emergency operated as a driver, making the adoption of OER a need. 

A high instability of these transformations is observed in the evolution towards the return to face-to-face education. These instabilities would require the establishment of mechanisms to promote and prioritize the creation, adaptation and sharing of OER, in order to give visibility to the value of these practices and to give sustainability to the learning generated by the Pandemic.

Thanks again GO-GN!

As the GO-GN fellowships second call for applications is about to announce the new Fellows, I would like to take advantage of this last post to share how good this experience has been, for two main reasons.

First, It was very important for me to see the application of the conceptual model, developed in my Ph.D thesis, applied in another educational context (k12) and in an emergency situation (Covid-19), allowing me to mature my capacity as a researcher in open education. It was relevant to achieve an understanding of what has been happening in education in my country during the pandemic, and in particular the potentials to position open education as an important issue during these hard times. I believe that the greatest work will be in the possibilities to spread these results among the stakeholders. I hope it will be one of the first actions of the Unesco Chair on Open Education to disseminate them among teachers, educational authorities and other stakeholders.

Second, everything in the GO-GN Fellowship scheme was excellent. At all times I felt supported by the coordination team, and encouraged to openly share the progress of my research, in these blog posts. For someone not used to blogging it was difficult, but it helped me to realize its importance in open research understood as an open work process.

Finally, along with thanking this opportunity for funding and visibility as a researcher in open education, I would like to highlight the importance of deepening and expanding the impact of the Fellowship scheme towards supporting the consolidation of the research career of the many alumni that GO-GN already has. 

For this, I have suggested the implementation of support and advice to alumni on access to the academic career, and existing post-doctoral scholarships schemes, through agreements with national and international agencies, among other possible lines.This would lead to further strengthen open education as a research field where GO-GN is, nowadays, one of it most relevant agent.

Photo by Ari Crespo on Unsplash

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