Innovate to Educate Entry
Mountain Heights Academy
Sarah Weston, Director of Technology and OER
What innovative technology initiative or project are you most proud of, and how has it improved teaching and learning in your school/district?ONLINE DIGITAL OPEN COURSEWARE - Mountain Heights Academy is an online, public charter school in Utah. Mountain Heights is the first secondary school to develop its own online curriculum as open source content and share it with the world. Mountain Heights remains one of the most innovative and cutting-edge digital academies today, providing equal access to high-quality digital resources all over Utah and beyond.
We have released these digital resources under a Creative Commons Attribution licence. This means that any teacher or student can reuse, revise, remix and redistribute the materials. This gives teachers the freedom to do what teachers to best-- tinker, adjust and adapt their teaching materials to meet the needs of their students. Course development began in 2009 with nine (9) courses being produced. Since then, an additional 73 courses have been created and publicly released, bringing the total to 82.
GLOBAL IMPACT OF MOUNTAIN HEIGHTS ACADEMY'S INNOVATION
COURSES TRANSLATED INTO CHINESE: In September 2011, shortly after the release of nine courses of curriculum, the CORE Foundation in China contacted us in order to translate the content into Chinese.
COURSES MADE AVAILABLE TO MINISTRY OF EDUCATION IN NEW ZEALAND: Shortly after the devastating earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand, the Greater Christchurch Schools Network contacted Mountain Heights Academy for use of our courses. We were happy to give them access twelve semesters of curriculum as they struggle to provide learning opportunities for all students in damaged areas without physical buildings to attend.
COURSES TRANSLATED INTO SPANISH: In April 2014, Mexico's first online school will open, using much of their infrastructure from the technology, learning management system, student information system, organizational structure, training, hiring, curriculum and culture from Mountain Heights Academy. Plans are underway to expand into other countries in Central and South America.
COURSES BEING USED ACROSS THE WORLD: After the first year, over 10,000 people had accessed our courses. People from far away countries with unpronounceable names. By 2016, over 200,000 were using our content.
What were some of the biggest challenges to your initiative, and how did you meet those challenges?The biggest challenge of implementing an opencourseware site was deciding on a platform that would truly allow open access. We decided on Moodle, which is an open source learning managing system that any teacher, anywhere could install. We provided full course backups that can be freely downloaded. We also created the site specifically to allow users access to all the materials without having to create an account or login. We found that many educators were using our sites by directly linking. This was a challenge because we update our courses, which could result in broken links. We have worked to solve this issue by setting up web page redirects to help get teachers and students to the content they expect.
What are the three biggest components that need to be in place for tech innovation to succeed are:
Funding: It is obvious that any ed-tech innovation will require some sort of funding source to move forward. However, money, by itself, will never result in a successful implementation.
Cheerleaders - It takes 2 different types of people to succeed: Cheerleaders (the early adopters and tech-savvy educators) and Skeptics (the general population, content with their current teaching methods). The Cheerleaders are willing to jump right in, but they need to also convince the general population of Skeptics to experiment and expand.
When all 3 are in place - Funding, Cheeleaders and Skeptics - and working together - Ed-tech innovation in the classroom can succeed.