To borrow and tweak the phrase, software is not an epic (Certainties & Serendipities; Scott Berkun), a tool and an open educational resource (OER) are not epics. Scott Berkun defines a tool (i.e., material, object, technology, etc.) as something you make so someone else can make something. An OER, which in a sense acts as a tool, can be defined as follows (OERs infoKit):
Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching and learning materials that are freely available online for everyone to use, whether you are an instructor, student or self-learner. Examples of OER include: full courses, course modules, syllabi, lectures, homework assignments, quizzes, lab and classroom activities, pedagogical materials, games, simulations, and many more resources contained in digital media collections from around the world.
To the degree that an OER is made “freely available” might also depend on whether one can retweak, remix, redistribute, and add to the OER itself and whether or not the OER may be used for commercial or non-commercial purposes (for further considerations, see Creative Commons).
So why define tools and OERs? There seems to be a Problem with TED Ed as of late: The problem with TED Ed is the problem of what we define in traditional education as a ‘lesson’. But what is the problem, really? Is the problem with TED Ed specifically, or how other educators might use TED Ed? This is why defining tools and OERs (like class lessons) become key. Regardless of one’s interpretation as to how “freely available” content is in TED Ed, there is certainly the potential to retweak, remix, and further develop the lesson or OER itself that warrants further educative experiences when it comes to learning. Framing a problem around TED Ed, is like framing a problem specifically around a textbook, computer, pencil, Internet, or any other material, object, technology, or tool; avoiding any real context that may be useful in finding a solution. Problems cannot be set based on people, concepts, and materials alone; they must be set at the point where problems, people, concepts, and materials meet. The misconception with Problem with TED Ed, is that the term ‘lesson’ is viewed as some fixed learning experience that TED Ed designed and one that substitutes for good teaching (a notion that TED Ed clearly rejects in their introductory video).
TED Ed is not epic, nor are any web tools educators use to teach and learn. But TED Ed, like other materials (e.g., OERS) do offer affordances in various degrees; that is, degrees of action potential. The value of an OER or web tool stems from not only its direct potentiality, but subsequent potentialities that emerge from complex associations that occur over time and in multiple spaces between a web of human and non-human devices. The potentialities are threefold: the potential to take risks through creative pursuits, the potential to share experiences and opinions with others, and the potential to not only benefit the learner but those who come in contact with the learner (not to mention contacts that extend out two, three, or more degrees of separation). Setting a problem around a particular OER or tool alone (absent of context) does little to extend the dialog necessary for reaching viable and situational solutions.
Picture: by Velo Steve