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Using open educational resources to make your own textbook? You need OneNote!

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Today’s post was written by Brent Thrasher, 8th grade Math teacher at Rickman Elementary School.

This past spring our school district started tossing around the idea of moving to open educational resources (OER). I was actually glad to hear this idea because I knew what opportunities it could offer our students. At the same time, I knew the challenges it would pose to us teachers. If you don’t know much about OER, this article is a good place to start learning.

Basically, the idea of OER is a community of educators creating “free-to-use” content. This content is open to anyone who wants to consume it or modify it to make it their own. It can distributed to students and updated as many times as the teacher wants, without any fee.

Of course, we tend to focus on the free aspect of OER, but I think that is only a small benefit of OER. I think the biggest and most powerful aspect of OER is the community. As I mentioned before, OER is content developed by a community of educators.

With thousands of educators out there creating content, there is what seems like too much content to comb through. When I started my adventure in the OER world, gathering almost everything I found, I realized two things. One: I could never sort through all of this content by myself before the start of school. Two: I needed a way to organize all the content and insert new lessons as I come across them.

Well, it didn’t take long to realize OneNote was really the answer to both of my problems. The first problem was the manpower. When you get started reviewing and gathering OER you will soon find out it seems endless. I needed some help, so I contacted a fellow math teacher in my district and we decided to work on the project together. OneNote made this easy. I simply started a Notebook and shared it with my colleague by sending her an email. Right away we started dragging and dropping the lessons we had found out on sites like Engage New York and cK-12. Also, thanks to OneNote, we were able to work asynchronously. I could work on the project when I had time, and she could do the same. We did not have to set up times to meet. With OneNote, my edits instantly synced to her version.

As I mentioned before, an important aspect of OER is that you can edit it and make it your own. OneNote again made things really easy for us. In OneNote, you get a great open workspace so that you can easily make annotations and comment on the content. This allowed us to collaborate and throw ideas back and forth.

OneNote also helped us organize our content. As I mentioned earlier, with OER it is easy to pile up the content and lose track of what you have. To remedy this problem we built an index page with a table that contained links to the pages for each lesson.

We are still working on our OER project and we are making a lot of progress. Since we began, we have invited several other teachers in our district to participate and add feedback. It is pretty awesome to see what we are accomplishing thanks to the communication OneNote provides.

If you aren’t familiar with OneNote, you should check it out. You can get it here for free, even if you don’t have an Office 365 subscription.

—Brent Thrasher

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