Better Classes Through OER

Below is the fourth in a series of posts by participants in the Winter 2021 Open Pedagogy Fellowship, coordinated by the Mina Rees Library. Fellows will share insight into the process of converting a syllabus to openly-licensed and/or zero-cost resources, as well as their experiences in the Fellowship.

William Oliver is an MA student in linguistics at the Graduate Center. His interests include syntax, semantics, and computational linguistics. He holds a BA in Philosophy from SUNY Binghamton and an M.Ed. from Harvard University in Language and Literacy. Previously, he taught English as a second language for five years in Arizona and Texas.

I am currently an adjunct professor in the Programs in Bilingual Education and TESOL in the Education Department at City College. There, I teach pedagogy to new teachers who teach English as a second language in New York City public schools. I applied for the Open Pedagogy Fellowship because I wanted to learn more about available educational resources. I hoped that the benefits of the fellowship would be two-fold. One, I would find open-source resources to better my own pedagogy, and, two, I would be able to show my student-teachers where to look to find resources for their K-12 classrooms. 

Before I started teaching at City College two years ago, I had taught high school English, as well as English as a second language, for five years. One of the biggest struggles in my first years was finding high-quality resources to use in my instruction. Like many teachers, I was not given a curriculum to follow nor resources, so I had to compile everything myself. As a new teacher this was especially difficult. Many of the resources that came up with Google searches were of poor and unprofessional quality, and the high-quality resources that I did find were expensive.  Often, I would create my own activities from scratch, but, as there are only so many hours in a day, doing that for every class period was unsustainable. Now, teaching and learning with new teachers at City College, I see that a lot of them are facing the same problems that I had with respect to finding free high-quality resources.

The Open Pedagogy Fellowship in Winter 2021 guided me to databases where there are abundant resources that I could use in my teacher preparation classes as well as share with my teachers for them to use in their own K-12 classrooms. Recently, I have been using open-source articles on English as a second language pedagogy, critical pedagogy, struggles of teaching in high-need schools, and classroom management. Resources that I found also gave me ideas for classroom activities that I could do with online instruction. These resources—which I never would have discovered if I did not participate in the Open Pedagogy Fellowship—not only made class preparation easier but also increased the overall quality of my class.

Moreover, I also shared the databases of educational resources that I discovered in the Fellowship with the student-teachers who are taking my classes. It is common in education classes for teachers to learn about research-based highly effective pedagogy, which they are excited to implement in their own classrooms. However, a key problem is that they do not have the resources to support this new pedagogy, and there is just not enough time to create everything from scratch. Thus, the student-teachers were excited to find out that there were many high-quality resources available to them online that were in line with the pedagogy they were learning in their education classes. 

After participating in the Open Pedagogy Fellowship, I have come to realize that the open-source and Open Educational Resources (OER) community will play an even greater role than I had thought, in the future of education. Many of the problems facing public education stem from a lack of funding as well as officials allocating their funds in the wrong places. Resultantly, teachers lack resources that they should have. Thus, having networks that allow teachers to share quality resources can make up for, at least in part, some of the shortcomings of the education system. 

Overall, my experience as an Open Pedagogy Fellow has been eye-opening. I learned about so many online resources that I never would have found out about if I were not guided there by the organizers of this Fellowship. Also, I learned about the burgeoning community of open resources (OER, OA) that is continuing to grow, expand, and that has had an undeniably positive influence on educators across the country.

Link to Class Site:

About the Author

Katherine Pradt is the Adjunct Reference and Digital Outreach Librarian at the Graduate Center.