The Butterfly Effect: K-12 OER and Open Learning

Doctoral Student & Technology for Learning Specialist Editorial | By Verena Roberts

I was asked to work with Dr Connie Blomgren as a subject matter expert (SME) for the ABOER grant, Multiplying Open Educational Resources (OER) Impact: Building In-service Teacher OER Capacity for Graduate Credit. The goal of Butterfly Effectthe project was to create digital content in the form of podcasts and videos to support Athabasca University’s BOLT program. I was excited to be asked to contribute to such a project because of my passion around open learning. As an open learner, I strive to promote the sharing of ideas and resources to promote access to learning for all and to build knowledge around the world.

Lorenz’s butterfly effect about organizational leadership’s chaos theory asks, “‘Does the flap of a butterfly wing in Tokyo, affect a tornado in Texas (or a thunderstorm in New York)?” (Wheatley, 1992, p.117) I am intrigued with the idea that something as small and as fragile as a butterfly can have such a huge impact on the world.

I believe that open educational resources (OER) that can be retained, reused, revised, remixed and redistributed can act as the butterfly that will change the world of education and learning as we know it. The effect of K-12 OER is to initiate deeper cultural understanding and awareness in the form of individualized and contextual content that can be adapted to meet the needs of any learner. The fluttering of K-12 OER can promote and provide access to knowledge, awareness and understanding that we so desperately need in our world today. Open educational  resources emulate the subtle yet beautiful movement of fluttering butterfly wings.

By completing this project, I have heard examples of how the butterfly effect has touched the lives of educational leaders and learners around the globe. I learned that the term Open Educational Resources is not pervasive in most K-12 learning environments. Instead, teachers and learners in K-12 are more likely to describe the importance and benefits of sharing, remixing and revising digital content. In fact, in K-12 learning environments, teachers are more likely to give examples of the attributes of open pedagogy (Hegarty, 2015) and the process of using open educational resources than they were to identify Creative Commons licensing and the specifics of OER use. Because of this unfilled niche in understanding,  the podcasts and videos aim to further the professional knowledge of practicing teachers and what OER awareness, use and advocacy means for teaching contexts.

This project has given me the opportunity to collect, record and share the voices of open learners from around the world that have never been pulled together before. While I have had the opportunity to hear many of these experts speak at conferences or symposiums, the project has given the opportunity for the world to share in the the wisdom and experiences of influential open advocates across Canada and the world.

I hope that teachers and learners will listen to the podcasts and videos to learn about the potential for OER and open learning in K-12 learning environments. As you listen to the podcasts and videos, envision how openness has the potential of promoting access to learning all over the world. What kind of flutter will OER initiate? What kind of  weather will OER and open learning bring to your learning environment?


Hegarty, B. (2015). Attributes of open pedagogy: A model for using open educational resources. Educational Technology.

Wheatley, Margaret J. (1992). Leadership and the New Science: Learning about Organization from an Orderly Universe. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Kohler Publishers.

About the Contributor

Verena Roberts is a passionate online and blended k-12 educator, consultant, MVLRI fellow and Werkland School of Education (University of Calgary) doctoral student who is completing her EdD in Learning Sciences. Verena has taught, designed courses and consulted about curriculum and technology integration from pre-K to Higher Education in Canada and the United States. She has facilitated and developed a wide range of open networked learning projects with a focus on open educational resources, emerging blended learning professional learning opportunities and personalized learning pathways for teachers and students. She was the 2013 iNACOL Innovative Online and Blended Learning Practice Award Recipient. Verena is currently a Technology for Learning Specialist with Rocky view Schools, in Alberta, Canada.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *