An OER curriculum brings my students’ lives into our classroom

When I was growing up, I assumed that my teachers knew everything, including all of the “right answers.” Now that I’ve been a teacher for 15 years, I know this simply isn’t true. In fact, some of the most powerful learning in my middle school science classroom has happened when I’ve pretended to NOT know the “right answer.” That’s when students take the lead and start to offer up their own ideas, share their experiences, and make powerful connections—sometimes amazing ones that I would never have thought of.

Teaching in this way requires a good deal of flexibility—including in your curriculum. A traditional science textbook doesn’t always provide educators the freedom to delve into topics that students bring up from their own lives or questions they have about the world around them. That’s why I’ve turned to open educational resources (OER).

OER are openly licensed, which means that educators can use, customize, and share these resources for free, allowing them to incorporate material that’s fresh and relevant for their students—all without having to worry about traditional copyright restrictions. I’ve been using an OER science curriculum called OpenSciEd for five years, and it has completely revolutionized the way I teach. It’s also transformed the way my students relate to and take ownership for their learning.…Read More

How our district is making math relevant

To meet current math standards like the Louisiana Student Standards for Mathematics or the Common Core State Standards, it is no longer enough for students to simply memorize how to do something. They must demonstrate a deeper understanding and be able to explain the “why” behind the “how.”

In Caddo Parish (LA) Public Schools (CPPS), our schools are very diverse, and nearly 70 percent of our students are economically disadvantaged. As in many other districts, our efforts to improve student achievement were hindered by curriculum materials that were not tightly aligned with the new standards and often lacked the tasks, norms, and routines needed to create problem-solving classrooms.

While it may not seem like a big stretch to move to a problem-based curriculum since problems are a fundamental part of math instruction, many teachers (including me) were not taught in the way that the standards now require us to teach. We can no longer show students how to solve two or three sample problems and then ask them to solve 10 to 20 problems on their own. To help them become college and career ready, we need to get them thinking about math concepts in a deeper way and actively engage them in meaningful discussions and problem solving.…Read More

How to find, curate, and assess OER

As schools and districts try to reduce textbook costs and digitize instructional resources, one of the struggles many teachers have is finding good repositories of open education resources (OER). The first step is to know how to access OER resources. However, access itself isn’t enough and the sheer volume of materials can be overwhelming. The second challenge is knowing how to curate or organize the materials you find into useful groups. The term curate comes from the museum world where for eons, curators gathered artifacts and arranged them to tell a compelling story or to otherwise educate.

Recent scholarship further hints that teachers are not embracing digital resources in ways to make an impactful difference, even though we know that digital materials engage students and help improve student time on task. It is imperative that schools and districts work to make the process as simple as possible so teachers can experience success with digital resources.

Accessing OER
The State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) recently released a Guide to Quality Instructional Materials to support the move from print to digital materials. The U.S. Department of Education has its #GoOpen District Launch Packet, and Open Learning has a free online course (about 15 hours) on how to develop OER content. You can take the course online or download it to study offline. In total, Open Learning has more than 800 professional development courses to support teacher development.…Read More

Measuring the hidden costs of OER

Open educational resources (OER) have been promoted as a solution to the rising costs and scalability needs in education. The idea that free content can solve curriculum needs and decrease costs is very appealing. In looking to OER as a potential solution, it is helpful to consider—beyond the “free” price tag—the actual cost of implementing a comprehensive OER program. Districts need to look at the implementation, management, and ongoing costs associated with OER.

Is OER the right fit?
There are key questions instructional leaders need to ask to see if OER is the right fit for their district. Often there is a vision for the content, whether it’s a lesson plan, unit, or entire curriculum. OER is created by nonprofits, organizations, and even individuals who have many purposes in mind as they contribute to education. After considering the purpose and motivation of the designers, educators should ask some additional questions:

  • What costs did the creator take on? Who paid those costs?
  • Is the OER high-quality and research-based?
  • What educational expertise does the designer have?
  • Is the OER designed using best-practice strategies? Is the content engaging?
  • If the OERs include advertisements, are these acceptable and in accordance with district policy?
  • Will the material be reliably updated and maintained?
  • Will the website be there in a year? Do the creators have enough funding to continue?

If OER seems like the right fit, the next big question to consider is this: What are the total costs of implementing and maintaining OER over time? These costs fall into four categories.…Read More

5 steps to implement OER in your LMS

As open educational resources (OER) become a more viable option for K-12 school districts that want to adopt new resources, curating these “free” and “open” educational assets has become increasingly difficult. With the U.S. Department of Education making a clear push for OER via its #GoOpen campaign, where districts take on the challenge of replacing at least one textbook with OER, the need for reliable vetting and selection tools has grown exponentially.

Here are five steps districts can use to implement OER in their LMSs:

1. Create a centralized “hub.” Focused on using OER that empowers students and improves educational outcomes, our strategy for vetting open resources is similar to the one we use for adopted publisher content. In our itslearning LMS, which we recently rebranded as the Wayne Learning Hub, we have created a complete digital learning environment for our teachers and students.…Read More

5 ways to get started with OER

It has been almost three years since the launch of the United States Department of Education’s #GoOpen movement. If you are late to the #GoOpen party, it is the commitment to expand and accelerate the use of openly licensed educational resources in schools across the country.

The commitment, in a nutshell, is to replace at least one textbook with open educational resources (OER) within one year, share in a community of practice with other school districts, and share the resources created with a Creative Commons license. While this sounds like a novel concept in writing, this movement engages every stakeholder in the P-12 educational ecosystem. And, beyond the chatter and hype of #GoOpen’s launch, there is still lots of work to be done. The work begins with implementation and how schools plan to strategically scale OER.

In the words of Simon Sinek, if you “start with the why” when thinking about #GoOpen, the answer is easy:…Read More

3 challenges to OER implementation

Open educational resources (OER) have made their presence known in education, with teachers and administrators voicing their excitement over free resources that are easily shared and adapted.

In fact, the movement has grown so much that it has received federal attention. The U.S. Department of Education’s #GoOpen campaign encourages states, school districts and educators to use open educational resources.

The Department is proposing a regulation that would require all copyrightable intellectual property created with ED grant funds to have an open license.…Read More

State leaders: Here’s how we’re going digital

In Iowa, eFlex Days allow students to learn from home or community centers about once every month.

There’s been much recent talk about schools going all-digital–from Arne Duncan’s call to action to the backlash from educators–but implementing digital resources is no easy task. During a recent stakeholder forum, however, leaders and experts came together to address how to make this shift into a reality.

The forum, Advancing Education in the Digital Age, was part of the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) 2012 Leadership Summit and highlighted SETDA’s recent report on the shift to digital instruction.…Read More

SETDA urges shift to digital instruction

The report acknowledges that policy changes regarding instructional materials are not enough to ensure that digital content is used in classrooms effectively.

Everyone remembers lugging a 20-pound textbook. But should today’s students still have to consult hefty—and often outdated—printed texts? And should states and districts still pay for resources that few students now find relevant?

A new report says “no”—and it urges states and districts to stop delaying the inevitable shift from print to digital instruction. It also provides examples of how some states are making this shift and overcoming the hurdles this involves.…Read More

Groups expand access to open educational resources

Efforts to help connect students and teachers to organized open education resources are increasing.

As educators push for more and better access to open educational resources (OER), or content that is available free of charge online, new efforts are helping classroom teachers find and use these resources as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Open Education Week, taking place March 5-10 online and locally around the world, aims to raise awareness of the open education movement and its impact on teaching and learning.…Read More