The future of free resources for schools?

Lots of free content to sift through can be overwhelming. Too many resources to filter, too piecemeal, too difficult to find links without reading through reams and reams of lesson content. In my experience the most expensive resources were the most boring and required a lot of sprucing up to keep students engaged. Free stuff could be amazing if it were curated to the same professional degree of paid for content.

Free resources

I’m a bit wary of free upload and share sites that turn from non profit to “hello, thanks for uploading all those years, payup or you will never see that wonderful lesson plan again”. After trying out many of these sites, we have now encountered the age of organised educators coming together to create Computing at School (CAS). CAS is a good template for other subjects, such as English or Maths. I trust CAS. There is however one failing CAS has and that is it’s ability to curate content, this is something ‘for profits’ do well. Filtering out noise and simplifying content.

CAS is the best of the bunch but it has it’s limitations. Like the net, it has lots of content. Just where do you start? After searching for hours I sometimes say “I wish I had just developed something myself, I’ve been searching for ages” It can take many hours to find and modify a resource. Then you have to create a scheme of work out of this jumble sale, of some excellent, some okay and some irrelevant material. Arrrggghhh! This is where some members of CAS have started to create schemes of work (SOW). Great people.

I’m not saying I want to be lazy, but I don’t want to re-invent the wheel. We have so little time, this issue needs to be sorted out. I recommend a separate area from CAS resources. A neat wiki style SOW area. Users can vote for which content stays and which goes. Github (a repository) is an example of what could be achieved to make content simpler to navigate. On this platform someone can make their own branch of a resource, re-engineer a basic lesson into a super lesson through a collaborative approach, this is a great example of what CAS could do. Incorporating lots of great minds on each lesson is the key to quality assurance. Even this solution is a bit complex to implement as the CAS content is so varied over many different platforms. For example media files and presentations would not be compatible with the Github platform. I don’t mind tweaking, I do mind creating lessons (too often). Creating content = less disposable personal time with friends and family.

I think the solution for many schools is more competition between free and paid for content. The government could do with investing in CAS infrastructure to help filter the resources. Better free content would incentivise publishers to develop better content and give teachers back their time, well at least a large chunk of it. Oh one more thing – scrap email… but that’s for another blog.

Do you have any suggestions for making community content more accessible, curated and less piecemeal? If so please comment and help improve collaborative teaching.

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