October 30, 2015

Kitchens participates in White House symposium

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- For the second time in just a few months, Southern Illinois University Carbondale staff member Jeanne Kitchens made a presentation at the White House due to her extensive experience with open education resources. 

Kitchens participated in the Open Education Symposium on Thursday, Oct. 29. She participated in the half-day event and demonstrated the Illinois Open Educational Resources system site, on behalf of the team that created and coordinates it, as a #GoOpen tool. The system is online at http://www.ilsharedlearning.org

“The Illinois Open Educational Resources (IOER) team is excited to be part of the OER community and this event. We look forward to enhancing the system and help people connect to the many benefits IOER offers,” Kitchens said. 

#GoOpen is a new U.S. Department of Education campaign that launched the day of the symposium to encourage states, school districts and educators to use and share openly licensed educational materials. In conjunction with the initiative, announced by Arne Duncan, U.S. secretary of education, the department is proposing a new regulation requiring all copyrightable intellectual property created with grant funds from the department to have an open license. 

“In order to ensure that all students – no matter their zip code – have access to high-quality learning resources, we are encouraging districts and states to move away from traditional textbooks and toward freely accessible, openly licensed materials,” Duncan said. “Districts across the country are transforming learning by using materials that can be constantly updated and adjusted to meet students’ needs.” 

Kitchens is the associate director of SIU’s Center for Workforce Development, a unit of the Department of Workforce Education and Development in the College of Education and Human Services. She has worked extensively with the Illinois Shared Learning Environment and its Illinois Open Educational Resources System platform, which has earned accolades from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Education Technology as an example of how open educational resources can be shared through a learning registry. 

Educators and other professionals regularly receive federal grants to create educational materials. Kitchens is among the proponents of making these types of materials readily available for others to use through free access online. The Illinois Open Educational Resources website averages about 22,500 user sessions each month and continues to grow. This success has brought Kitchens and SIU’s work into the national spotlight as well. 

Her presentation at the online symposium this week focused on the newly redesigned version of the IOER, which makes it even easier for educators to find high-quality open educational resources based on various learning standards. She also noted that a developer code is now available as an open source for other states interested in implementing a similar functionality. 

Kitchens said SIU has been very supportive of the team’s IOER work, giving them the creative freedom to pursue innovation and allowing them to seek grants to fund their efforts. 

Those participating in the symposium, which featured Kitchens’ presentation, included state and district superintendents and other educators from all over the United States.