Today, thanks to the Open Educational Resources (OER) movement, more and more teachers are designing and sharing curricula. The digital revolution has given teachers better equipment to create materials, and it’s now easier than ever for teachers to share these materials with others. What’s more, many of these materials are available for free. To many teachers, the OER movement seems too good to be true—and then, inevitably, they wonder: Is there a downside?

A recent Education Week article*, Pressing the Reset Button on OER, offers important insights on this topic. The author, Patrick Larkin, is an OER enthusiast who shares his experiences—both the wins and the fails—with OER since 2012. An important takeaway from Larkin’s article is that many teachers wish to create effective, high-quality OER materials, but they often don’t have the necessary time or resources in their work lives to do so.

In these cases, Larkin discusses the merits of improving upon educational materials that already exist. He points to Open Up Resources as a promising place for teachers to access these “starting point” materials. We would add that teachers should do research into which educational companies are offering high-quality, teacher-developed programs.

At Read Naturally, we firmly believe that those with experience in the classroom have the insights needed to design educational tools that truly work. Teachers are the creative force behind all of our curricula. Candyce Ihnot, a reading teacher, developed the Read Naturally Strategy over 25 years ago and has been instrumental in the creation of every program the company has put forth since then. The other educators on our staff and in the schools in which we pilot our programs are highly involved as well.

It is important to note, however, that Read Naturally programs are different from what educators can expect to find with OER. Read Naturally provides systematic programs to help students become proficient readers. The development of these programs is a much more comprehensive undertaking than the development of teacher-created materials that teach or reinforce a specific skill listed in the standards.

To create a Read Naturally program takes years. It takes a bevy of research and the collaboration of educators, writers, software developers, and many others. For example, writing our high-interest, leveled nonfiction reading passages not only took research and creative writing skills, it required using reliable readability measures to ensure those passages will help provide accurate data for growth over time. And then, integrating those passages into a complex, interactive, web-based program like Read Naturally Live required a kind of programming expertise I don’t even feel qualified to write about!

Read Naturally exists so that educators can use trusted, teacher-developed programs that deliver the results they need to see. And because we know that teachers often have the best ideas, we love to collaborate with them. When teachers share good ideas for improving or expanding upon our programs, we help share these ideas with others. This section of our website is devoted to just that. If you have an idea to share, please let us know!

We encourage the use and development of OER if it is in the best interest of the students whose learning is at stake. But keep in mind that Read Naturally’s intricate, teacher-developed programs can deliver results that many OERs cannot.

*Note that Education Week articles are accessed on a tiered subscription model. Non-subscribers can enjoy three free articles per month.