Working with authentic resources or using educational material?


Somewhere around 2005, in the middle of experiments designed to change our education,  I found an article dating back to 1996 from the OECD. It didn’t kick in immediately but these sentences kept popping up in my mind.


As access to information becomes easier and less expensive, the skills and competencies relating to the selection and efficient use of information become more crucial….
Capabilities for selecting relevant and disregarding irrelevant information, recognising patterns in information, interpreting and decoding information as well as learning new and forgetting old skills are in increasing demand. (see the actual article here)

Gradually I started realising that this was the bomb under my teaching. Up until that time I was selecting relevant information, I was recognising patterns, I was interpreting and decoding information for my students. I gave them portions. I gave them material in the right dose and of the right level. One word for teaching in the Netherlands is actually “doceren” and means teaching but also “giving portions, doses”. I realised that what I was doing was quickly becoming an essential skill for everyone. Educational researcher Sugata Mitra believes that information literacy is the most important skill for the future. In educational environments and simultaneously in the digital landscape it is essential for learners to develop these skills in order to participate in the society.

The character of knowledge

Basic skills are still necessary. That is the foundation on which we can build. For example, each student should be able to read and write properly. Besides basic skills it is important to possess detailed knowledge in the specific area of expertise. For example, someone who works in the tourism industry needs to know where Paris is situated and needs to be able to provide information about the highlights of the city. This type of ‘professional’ knowledge can be gathered by learning and training. Here, specifically built modern software, with rapid feedback and game elements, may play a significant role. We are building materials for obtaining these basic skills. Material for students to learn (a foreign) language for instance or to learn arithmetic.

However, a lot of the knowledge is of a completely different character. The levels and types of knowledge that are required is changing nowadays. It is of utmost importance that professionals engage in a continuous learning cycle, by adding and adapting their existing knowledge. A lot of this learning can be informal, without the traditional teacher- student relationship. And open, authentic resources can be used for that learning.

Teaching and learning tools

What does this mean for education?  Traditionally, it was the role of the teacher to transfer knowledge to the student by using available teaching materials. The teacher was the intermediary between knowledge on the one hand and learners on the other side. The real world knowledge was selected and adapted especially for learning and found their way into textbooks and practice-forms.

Currently, I think we still need a lot of basic skills and basic learning materials. Interactive learning tools may help and enable learners to gain knowledge fast, in their own time, in an effective manner. Moreover, through the active use of multimedia devices the learners get access to fast, reliable and stable feedback. For example a little sound  on the moment that a mistake is made, or the computer won’t react until the answers is the right answer.
If we want learners to prepare well for the future, we have to ensure that they are able to handle information on an individual basis. At FC-Sprint² in The Netherlands, we motivate the students and adult learners to get used to process authentic information, which is not specifically designed for them. Therefore, we make maximum use of publicly available sources. This ‘raw’ information is what they will use in the future, to stay up to date of the developments in their fields, and gain new knowledge. Also, the information that we provide to the learners is up-to-date, and they get the opportunity to gain the ability to select and process the information.

In the next table I will try to point out the differences between working with resources and working with teaching materials. To ensure clarity, the nuances are left out.


Working with educational tools

Working with resources

Computer (or teacher) determines what the student must do.

Great emphasis on the way to the result.


Teacher decides what the student should be able to know (consultation with student is possible).

Great emphasis on the result to be achieved.


Limited autonomy  for student.

Teacher (or the system) determines the route for the student.


Greater autonomy  for student.

Student determines the route, teacher determines what will be achieved.

(teacher creates an expectation).

Motivation Model – rewards and punishments.


Motivation Model – autonomy, mastery, purpose.


Great clarity about what learners should do.


Great clarity about what a student should be able to know / to be able to do.


Teacher or computer chooses.


Student chooses.


Student hopes that his work is adequate and is dependent on the teacher to grade it.


Student submits his paper and says it is an “A”  (which is true).


Teacher can look into the system and see what a student has done and what he has scored.


Teacher can`t see what a student has scored in the past. The student shows what he is able to do to the teacher/rest of the group.


Structure of teaching and learning materials are one entity.

ELO – Learning goals and the resources associated are often directly linked.


-Structure of education and the use of various sources function as separated units.

– Sources are useful for the whole field and are independent of the structure of teaching.

The student has to select resources.


Textbooks are purchased.


Resources are built, created and collected by learners, teachers and businesses.


Textbooks are expensive.


Selecting resources and keeping resources up to date is part of professionalization.


Students are provided with the materials by the teacher at a specific point in the learning process. Student gets access to all the resources from a field of expertise in a logical and clear menu. The student needs to find out what he needs to do to meet the high expectations of the teacher. Learners have access to all sources of all years and courses.



Learners who are obedient are rewarded.


C – employee

I need a traditional boss. If no one supervises me I will not be focused and spent my time on my phone or watch YouTube videos. The traditional boss has to check my work regularly since I am not capable of doing it myself. That boss needs to tell me when I am done with my work and when I can go home. Assignments must be given to me, I do not ask for them. I do not come up with proposals how to improve the quality of my work. If I face something that I do not understand, I will just muddle through. I mostly work by myself.


Learners who follow their own route and operate independently are rewarded.

A – employee

I need a modern boss. Now and then I watch YouTube videos, but mostly I am focused and concentrated on my work. I regularly check the quality of my own work and if I am done with my task I ask for new ones. I come up with proposals in how to improve the quality of my work. If I do not understand something I am working on, I try to figure it out myself, but if it takes too long I ask for assistance. I communicate with the rest of the team.


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