Open educational resources (OER) are growing in popularity — moving toward becoming the norm, even — and it’s because of individuals like Barbara Soots.
Soots has spent the last five of her 27 years as an educator at the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), where she serves as the OER program manager.
In that role, Soots not only discusses the challenges and rewards of adopting OER with other educators, she also implements state legislation on OER, facilitates educator review of openly licensed resources, maintains a library of reviewed digital content and manages grants that help districts adopt OER.
She also has organized regional OER summits across Washington state. At the summits, Soots has introduced hundreds of educators to OER and encouraged them to get behind it. “As a result of this, many districts are actively incorporating OER into their curriculum,” said Dennis Small, the educational technology director of OSPI. “Some districts are even developing their own complete courses, often with funding from mini-grants [Soots] has set up to support this development.”
The source of her enthusiasm and support for OER, Small said, is obvious.
“[Soots’] focus is always about empowering educators, providing them with tools and knowledge to improve instruction, with the goal of improving student achievement,” he told EdScoop.
Kathe Taylor, the assistant superintendent for learning and teaching at OSPI, said Soots has been “instrumental” in building connections at the department.
“She listens, advises and gently nudges districts to deepen their OER initiatives and, more important, do the hard work of finalizing all the details so it can be made accessible to others,” Taylor said. “Although the work is never finished, [Soots] methodically keeps moving it forward — one resource at a time.”