Oak National Academy

We’re opening Oak up to help teachers and make educational AI more reliable

John Roberts explains how open government licensing will make Oak National Academy a launchpad for lesson planners, curriculum designers and edtech developers

John Roberts explains how open government licensing will make Oak National Academy a launchpad for lesson planners, curriculum designers and edtech developers

12 Jun 2023, 5:00

Innovation requires a number of things – ideas, collaboration and openness among them. Oak National Academy would not have been built without them, and that’s why we have made the decision to throw open our work to others. From our data and platform code, to how we’ll let others re-use and adapt our brand new curriculum resources, we’re removing restrictions and sharing openly.

From this autumn we’ll start rolling out new teaching resources which are being created by great schools and education organisations. Eventually we’ll cover 14 subjects, with resources to support 14,000 lessons. To make sure everyone can access, use and innovate with them, we’ll publish them on an Open Government Licence (OGL).

Oak is funded by public money, so it is right that everyone can access and benefit from what we create for free. The OGL won’t cover absolutely everything we publish, but most of it. (We will need to protect any resources with content that is not ours – such as extracts from a book or video clips.) All that we ask is that users attribute Oak as the original source.

We know Oak’s resources will only ever be a starting point, and sharing them in an open way means teachers can adapt them for their contexts and pupils without barriers. Teachers who choose to use our materials will be able to edit and add activities or modify our curriculum. They’ll also be free to innovate. There will be no restrictions on teachers taking what we have, creating something even better and then sharing it with colleagues.

This freedom extends to others too. Multi academy trusts, subject associations, teaching hubs and edtech and publishing firms, including those using AI models, will all be able to draw, adapt and re-use any of Oak’s new resources for free.

Open licensing is important for the sector for another reason too. We are just starting to see AI’s potential to support planning, generate ideas for lessons and help individual pupils with their learning. But there are risks, and chief among them is inaccuracy.

Others will be able to build on what we are creating

AI models operate entirely from a best-guess model. They don’t “know” the right answer. So the content on the internet that models are trained on is crucial; poor quality information in means poor quality answers out. Teachers and pupils need 100 per cent accuracy. That means we can’t yet rely on generative AI, with its mix of both reliable and unreliable content, to create classroom resources.

We hope Oak’s open licence can make a difference here too. It means anyone developing an AI educational tool has a totally reliable, freely available set of resources as a trusted launchpad for their AI products, and it could put the UK at the forefront of potential in AI in education, creating solutions for teachers and pupils.

OGL isn’t new. There’s a growing global movement towards sharing educational resources in an open way and benefit as many pupils and teachers as possible, while also encouraging innovation. It’s been adopted as the standard approach for public sector organisations like Oak, and it’s recommended by UNESCO. We will be hearing a lot more about it in the years to come.

As well as high quality teaching resources, Oak also has a world-leading education technology platform. We’ve decided to adopt the same open approach with that, so all our code is now open-sourced, shared on a MIT licence. That means other organisations and individuals will be able to use what we’ve done to help build and improve their own products and tech platforms for teachers. 

And we are doing the same with sharing the anonymised and aggregated data that is created by our users, which we analyse for trends and insights.

Like many educational and digital projects, Oak depends on making use of free and open work created by others. With this new approach, others will be able to build on what we are creating too. It’s this openness that makes our system first-rate at innovation, and we are proud to be playing a part in it.

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