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OER and you. The curation mandate

At the #GoOpen Exchange on Friday, everyone was talking about OER and the need to curate.  The Twiter feed shows the buzz around the trending event and it shows school librarians were at the table.

As the initiative moves forward, it is critical for us to choose to be at the head of this particular table.

Hosted at the beautiful Skywalker Ranch, Friday’s #GoOpen Exchange engaged major players in education from the White House and the DOE, as well as state officials, leaders of non-profits and learning institutions, the biggest names in e-commerce and technology, developers, vendors, publishers, state officials, administrators, leadinggoopenbadge folks in edtech, and educational thinkers and practitioners.

I was proud to be there to share along with some serious library power: AASL President Leslie Preddy, Mark Ray (WA) Washington, Jennifer Boudrye (D.C.) and Mary Reiman (NE).

Here’s the good news:  Our government edtech officials are convinced that librarians should play a role in curating the burgeoning number of open educational resources (they gave us several shout-outs and ensured we were there).  We made an impact.

But it was clear to our little group, that to the larger majority of the participants, we were not even on the OER radar.

Some OER background:

Launched in October, GoOpen is a U.S. Department of Education campaign founded with the belief that

educational opportunities should be available to all learners. Creating an open education ecosystem involves making learning materials, data, and educational opportunities available without restrictions imposed by copyright laws, access barriers, or exclusive proprietary systems that lack interoperability and limit the free exchange of information.

What are OER?

According to the OER Commons:

Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching and learning materials that you may freely use and reuse at no cost. Unlike fixed, copyrighted resources, OER have been authored or created by an individual or organization that chooses to retain few, if any, ownership rights. In some cases, that means you can download a resource and share it with colleagues and students. In other cases, you may be able to download a resource, edit it in some way, and then re-post it as a remixed work. .

OER include lesson plans and supporting scaffolds, handouts and workseets,  courses, electronic textbooks, media, simulations.

Some more background:

In addition to our discussions and sessions, the #GoOpen Exchange included announcements about a few old favorite portals and the launches of new search tools, portals and services to facilitate discovery and use of OER.

Among the featured platforms and developments:

  • Microsoft is planning an app to help teachers and students find rated OER from within any learning management system. New features in Microsoft Office 365’s will allow users to create, discover, rate and share openly licensed materials.
  • Amazon Education unveiled a beta of its search tool for OER that will allow educators to upload, manage, share, discover and rate resources in an interface that closely resembles the familiar user experience of Amazon’s massive marketplace.  The site will feature left panel filters to refine searches. Just like in the commercial interface, users of education “store” will be invited to add ratings and reviews and will receive personal recommendations based on previous selections.
  • Edmodo announced the launch of Edmodo Spotlight, a haven for sharing, collecting, and discovering helpful resources all within Edmodo’s global platform. Edmodo plans to offer tailored, vetted recommendations openly-licensed resources to every teacher on its free communication and collaboration platform.  Spotlight encourages teachers to contribute. The new feature allows educators to discover OER even when not signed in.
  • The Center for Digital Education, Inquiry Schools and ISTE are collaborating to create a guide to selecting and using OER in schools, that will include: checklists, strategies and case studies drawn from #GoOpen districts.
  • The “classic” OER Commons now has a public library and Open Author allowing users to build OER, lesson plans, and courses—and then publish them, to the benefit of educators and learners everywhere.
  • By next fall, Follett will build an OER search tool, powered by the Learning Registry ( a DOE and DOD and White House-supported effort to create a repository of learning resource metadata) into the Destiny library management software.  It will also offer the ability to create lesson plans and playlists.

Screen Shot 2016-02-27 at 7.51.54 AMNader Qaimari, Executive Vice President and General Manager at Follett School Solutions, shared:

As we embark on GoOpen initiative, which can really transform learning, it’s imperative that we keep the role of the librarian front and center.  They are curation and edtech pioneers and are the best fit for propelling this movement forward.  To champion their efforts, we are focusing on rebuilding Destiny to have more application in the classroom, fostering teacher and librarian collaboration around curriculum development, while also offering professional development to librarians to ensure they are Future Ready.

A call to action:

As this bounty of content enters our schools, this is a pivotal moment, friends.  The mandate is to be ready and to take the lead in making sense of the content and resources that will be making their way into our schools in a big way.

The opportunity, especially for school libraries with little or no budgets, is to leverage this free content to promote access and equity, to create new user-friendly collections, and to embed the best into instruction school-wide.Screen Shot 2016-02-28 at 11.49.45 AM

We are going to need to ensure that our teacher partners can effectively search for and integrate the stuff they need.  We will need to curate workflow tools as well as stuff.

As I shared in my panel presentation, Beyond Content: Engaging your Community as OER Curators, digital curation is simply a translation of traditional library services. It’s our gig.

Curation is about selection, access, organization, equity.

Librarians are have always been about (and translating): selecting, organizing, ensuring access & equity, sense-making, adding value, instructional voice, storytelling, personalizing and learning.

And so,

  • How will you curate to make the bounty of emerging portals themselves discoverable?
  • How will you select and curate instructional content to add local instructional value?
  • How will you ensure that your valuable existing purchases will be utilized along with the free content?
  • How will you work with teachers to understand the Creative Commons licensing behind the resources?
  • How will you build meaningful inquiry around these resources?
  • As a librarian, how will you translate your role and use OER to create and build and collaborate and contribute?

Get ready, ’cause here it comes.

An interesting aside, when the DOE’s first open education adviser, Andrew Marcinek was a first year teacher,  I was his librarian.

Another interesting aside, Sara Trettin, Presidential Management Fellow at U.S. Department of Education is a former teacher and librarian.


Update: You may be interested in this Symbaloo I pulled together listing OER portals and curating platforms.

Screen Shot 2016-08-11 at 10.17.12 PM



Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza


  1. Joyce,
    My organization,, has been involved in hosting a website / community for educators (of all types) to curate, share, and use OERs since 2007. We were not at the event, so I didn’t get a chance to connect with you there. I would love to give you a tour of Curriki and discuss ways we can partner with SLJ and the Librarian community as a whole to support you all in curating OERs for your schools and districts.

    You can tweet to me or email to schedule a call. I’m @janetpintonyc and
    We also manage @curriki

    I look forward to working with you and SLJ!


  2. Joyce,
    Great summary and perspective on the day and the movement, and thank you for the shout-outs for OER Commons. I’m the founding Program Director of OER Commons public digital library at ISKME, and director of the video you referenced, and so, have a stake in raising awareness and sharing stories around OER curatorial expertise.

    We’re also partnered w/ AASL on a federally funded IMLS project to elevate the role of school librarians as OER creators, curators, and instructional co-leaders generally.

    Like minds! 🙂


  3. Hello Joyce,
    I am here late but what you are writing here is so relevant and timely that it will remain so for a good amount of time to come.

    OER provide a unique opportunity to teachers, educators and librarians of all kinds to become trusted guides and curators of our future know-how. What an ambitious and rewarding challenge awaits you!

    Thanks for being such an energetic and enthusiastic promoter of this revolutionary change which is going to deeply transform the way we learn and educate ourselves.

    P.S.: I would welcome any constructive feedback, criticism and suggestions to this book chapter on Curation and OER that you can read here:

  4. Patricia Erwin-Ploog says


    I am working on an ISKME project and looking for school library collection development policies that include statement/sections of curating OER. Would love to be able to show some examples. Thanks!


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