July 22, 2015

Kitchens presents at White House workshop

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Southern Illinois University Carbondale staff member Jeanne Kitchens was selected to make a presentation recently at a White House Inter-Agency Open Policy Workshop in Washington, D.C., due to her extensive experience with open education resources. 

Hosted by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the U.S. Department of Education, the Open Policy Workshop’s goal was to raise awareness of and foster open access to educational materials produced via federal funding. Kitchens is associate director of the SIU Center for Workforce Development, part of the university’s Department of Workforce Education and Development in the College of Education and Human Services. She has worked extensively with the Illinois Open Educational Resources System, which has earned praise from the Office of Education Technology as a great example of how open educational resources can be shared through the Learning Registry. 

Each day, all over the United States, educators and other professionals receive federal grants to create educational materials. The workshop focused on making this work more readily available for others to use through free online access. The White House event brought together staff from about 19 federal agencies along with representatives of many organizations, projects and states. 

In addition to Kitchens, speakers included Megan Smith, the U.S. chief technology officer from the White House, Richard Wiler of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Carlos Rossel of The World Bank Group.   

Kitchens spoke about her work with Illinois Open Education Resources (OER), an educational resources repository where webpages, files, and partial or complete curricula are shared. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology identified the educational repository as a noteworthy open educational system example in the office’s recently published “Ed Tech Developer’s Guide.”  

Kitchens and her team developed the OER system, which is an initiative of the federal Office of Educational Technology. 

For instance, in an effort to improve access to high school health science curriculum, the Illinois Pathways Health Science Learning Exchange offers a complete health science high school curriculum that meets state and national standards. A high school teacher can go to the website and download at no cost what they need to teach health sciences. The repository also curates career and workforce development resources, offers dashboards for daily classroom management, and tools to monitor student interventions and performance. 

Kitchens said sharing developed technologies, information and materials saves money, eliminates waste, improves efficiencies, allows better integration of resources, and increases the likelihood of partnerships and collaborations at all levels that will lead to even greater sharing of knowledge. The Illinois OER website is averaging nearly 22,500 user sessions each month and has grown tremendously in usage in the past few months alone, Kitchens noted. 

In addition to the special presentations at the workshop, Kitchens and the other participants enjoyed roundtable discussions and smaller group conversations focusing on how resources are produced, what opportunities exist for creating and sharing openly licensed materials, what challenges arise in open sharing, and how policies and practices can be changed to encourage knowledge sharing. 

“Our conversation and focus was on how to create fair and consistent policies that encourage the sharing of licensed educational products developed through grant funding so that they are available to all who need them,” Kitchens said.