If you haven’t directly experienced the pandemic’s impact on education—the months of learning that students have tragically lost, and the disproportionate impact on low-income students—you almost certainly have heard about it, Bill Gates wrote on his Gates Notes blog post.
Photo Insert: Bill Gates, the "student of robotics"
What gets less attention, but is just as important, is COVID’s impact on teachers. Because of the strains created by the pandemic, more educators than ever are thinking about leaving the profession, and the rates are especially high among the most-experienced ones.
As veteran teachers leave, more responsibility will fall on ones who have spent less time in the classroom. In short, there has never been a more important time to support teachers.
Even before the pandemic, supporting teachers was a core part of the Gates Foundation’s work in US education. And this year marks the 10th anniversary of a project I fund personally, separately from the foundation, that has also learned a lot about that subject.
It’s called the OER Project (OER is short for Open Educational Resources), and for the past decade, the team there has been creating free online courses and professional development for educators.
Although OER courses won’t solve every problem that the pandemic has caused for schools, they’re an important part of making sure teachers get the support they deserve—and students get the high-quality curriculum they need—in such difficult times.
Broadly speaking, there’s nothing new about the concept of OER. Educators have always curated their own classroom materials. Every teacher who has ever downloaded a worksheet from Pinterest has used an open educational resource.
What makes the OER Project different is that it is far more than worksheets and videos. It offers complete courses, including the equivalent of online textbooks for students, coupled with instructional support and professional development for teachers. Every course is available free, online, for any educator who wants it.