Reasons why not
While we’re thinking through the problems of OER localization, it’s worth taking a breath and noting that, from an instructor’s perspective, there are at least a few good reasons for not localizing resources, provided you have a near approximation of your needs. Localization is an important aspect of OER use, and one that we need to understand better, but a significant amount of OER use will involve unmodified applications of materials, for good reasons:
– It’s easier to contextualize the content during instruction than to modify the actual materials. Again, the danger of thinking of OER use as purely an educational technology enterprise–if a good near approximation is available, the instructor can simply convey any necessary information to students as they distribute the material. For instance, in distributing a problem set, the instructor can say, “We’ll only do every other problem here,” or “The last five questions are advanced applications not required, but you can do them for extra credit.” Same applies for issues of currency and culture.
– There is value in showing students how the topic is taught elsewhere. I’ve seen cases both of educators giving their students MIT content to show how much more difficult materials are at a top school and to show that the level of instruction students are getting is at the same level. Either way, the use depends on not modifying the material.
– Unmodified materials provide teachable moments. Multicultural literacy is going to be at least as important in many fields as technical skills. By providing students unmodified materials and leaving it to the students to understand the cultural issues, educators better prepare their students for working in the global economy, where information is not going to appear nicely localized. This is every bit as true (maybe more so) for students in the developed world as in the developing.
I’m not suggesting localization will not be a vital part of OER exchange, just suggesting our thinking needs to be kept open to uses beyond localization.