Tips for Teachers and Classroom Resources

Learning Gets Personal: The Appeal of FLOE and OER Digital Resources

By Marcus Hennessy, CEA

Last fall, The Burlington Patch reported a high school in Burlington, Massachusetts, distributed 1,200 Apple iPads to all its students as part of a new technology initiative. In Forsyth County, Georgia, 80 percent of students use their own tablets and mobile devices to complete assignments. The country of South Korea is spending $2 billion to give every K-12 student their own tablet device.

FLOE using iPads for learning

Clearly, the trend toward mobile digital technology to augment K-12 education is growing in the U.S. and globally. But to maximize the utility of these devices, students need free and easy access to software, learning platforms, and digital content.

Enter FLOE (Flexible Learning for Open Education) and OER (Open Education Resources), two emerging trends that go hand in hand to create personalized learning environments and enhance student performance.

FLOE Basics

The Inclusive Design Research Centre at the Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD) created FLOE in 2010 to help students find and develop digital content to exploit the power of their mobile devices for educational purposes. The project was funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and has gained surprising popularity in classrooms across North America.

In response to a growing body of research that shows students perform better when they can personalize access to learning materials, FLOE has established a plan for exploiting open Internet resources.

The FLOE paradigm has spurred the development of new tools to meet student needs, including:

  • Fluid Project Wiki, in which users can actually contribute to design and development methods for compiling a digital curriculum
  • Fluid Infusion, which encourages users to create interfaces and front-end applications
  • Inclusive Learning Handbook, which shows content creators and teachers how to build flexible and inclusive learning materials

OER Provides More FLOE Options

OER takes advantage of open licensing to offer digital materials and texts that can be used and reused in educational formats without infringing on copyrighted or intellectual property. These materials include course syllabi, collections, journals, content modules, learning objects and digital textbooks.

Here are some of the more popular OER, which currently partners with FLOE to optimize open resource flexibility:


A comprehensive and globally popular digital environment geared toward managing, storing, and optimizing educational content. Key features include:

  • More than 17,000 learning objects or modules
  • Over 1,000 collections (textbooks, journal articles, etc.)
  • Delivery of free content 24/7/365
  • Materials are easily downloadable to almost any mobile device
  • Schools can order low-cost hard-copy sets of materials (textbooks)
  • Frictionless remixing: Connexions XML data structures can be mixed and remixed with other content
  • Legality: the Creative Commons open-content licenses let others use and reuse materials legally; all content in the Connexions repository is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC-BY)

OER Commons

  • Common Core Reference Collection: a repository of Common Core implementation plans, transition guides, assessment tasks and curricula
  • Common Core Aligned Resources: for K-12 educators, a tool that shows how individual resources align to the Common Core State Standards
  • Arts Integration: promotes arts-integrated digital learning across disciplines
  • Science as Inquiry: encourages students to conduct active exploration and problem-solving in a fluid digital medium
  • General Ed and Pre-College Courses: can also be used as frameworks to build online or blended courses

The OpenCourseWare Consortium

This embodies a global collaboration of hundreds of higher education institutions and organizations contributing to a large body of open content utilizing a shared model. Much of these resources are developed as courses to include planning materials, evaluation tools and thematic content.

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