Down the Rabbit Hole: Discovering Open Educational Resources

While writing my dissertation for my Masters this past June, I needed to know how many times Iago is called a ‘devil’ in Shakespeare’s Othello. And I realised there was a time in my life when this actually would have involved counting. The thought made me shudder. What if I missed one, and I made an incorrect assertion? What if my desperate, tired brain morphed other words into ‘devil’? But luckily, no counting was required. I pulled up an online edition, and apple-f’d to my heart’s content.

The answer, by the way, is none. He is called ‘villain’ five times, but only after being called ‘honest’ eight times.

I confess, I knew next to nothing about Open Educational Resources when I started work for Writers Inspire. ‘Yahoo!’ I thought. ‘I’m getting paid to rant about writers I love!’ Let’s just say that the Why Shakespeare Was Shakespeare article had to go through quite a few drafts before it stopped sounding like an angry rant against Oxfordians.*

I did love digital editions. Don’t get me wrong- I’m a devout proponent of the book. I don’t own a kindle, despite an increasingly heavy personal library, and if I read on the computer too long I get a headache. But with free programmes like Juxta letting me compare editions with ease on the computer, I am starting to love the digital revolution.

But it was Writers Inspire that sent me, armed with nothing but a flashlight, my trusty hatchet, and two of the chocolate muffins leftover from a staff meeting (yum), into The Internet in search of Open Educational Resources. And what I found was remarkable. There is a wealth of essays, lectures, documentaries, pictures, all free online, and often free to re-use. They are provided by universities, secondary school teachers, even research institutions. Computer literacy has never been more crucial for students of the Humanities, but by the same token, students of Humanities have never been more welcome on the internet.

The great thing about clickability is that what I have affectionately termed the Wikipedia Syndrome comes into play: you know how on wikipedia you start reading an article on the Babington Plot and end up clicking on links until you’re reading about Carmilla? Once you start clicking you can’t stop. What, this professor who is speaking on Artistotle has also covered George Eliot? Got to see that. What, this related link has a photo of the actual card the Marquess of Queensberry wrote accusing Oscar Wilde of posing as a sodomite? I have got to see that. An economics professor lecturing on early modern theatre? Curiouser and curiouser.

It’s like falling down Alice’s rabbit hole, but into a world that makes total sense- a world that allows for exploration of strangely specific topics, and most importantly, a world that caters to all learning types. The variety of types of material means that there’s a point of access no matter what your core sense. This material is just out there, waiting to be explored, to be incorporated into the classroom, waiting to prompt ideas and discussions and whirlwinds of more clicking.

I admit many are hard to find; it’s unfortunate how many great educational tools (often ones that unfortunately weren’t relevant to Writers Inspire because of license or content) are in deep, dark, hidden corners. It took hours of searching to unearth a few gems.

Suddenly I was wishing I had the web-designing capabilities that would make a site that put all of these resources in one place, Creative Commons or not. They could be rated, tagged, searchable by theme or writer or resource type or source, and teachers would contribute, and I could be the Hero Who Made the Internet Easy for English Students…

And although that’s just a pipe dream, I think we’re moving in that direction. These invaluable resources are getting easier to find. Great Writers Inspire is just the beginning.

All images sourced from wikicommons.




*But really, though, it just makes me sad. How can you have so little faith in the human imagination as to think that all writing must be autobiographical? Is a vast conspiracy that much more plausible to us today than the possibility of genius coming from the son of a glover?


About Kate O'Connor

Kate O'Connor works as Publicity & Outreach Director for Post5 Theatre, Literary Assistant and Office Manager for the Original Practice Shakespeare Festival, and Dramaturgy Intern for the Profile Theatre. She earned her M.St. in English Literature 1550-1700 at Lincoln College, University of Oxford and a BA in English from Stanford University. As an undergraduate she worked as the research assistant to Prof. David Riggs and as Literary Intern for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
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2 Responses to Down the Rabbit Hole: Discovering Open Educational Resources

  1. Karen Johnson says:

    Hi Kate, some more distractions here

  2. Karen Johnson says:

    Especialy this one on epic poetry

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