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

Pearson launches searchable catalog of open educational resources

The number of open educational resources (OERs) that educators can choose from is constantly growing. Every week, new—and free—textbooks, quizzes, videos, and even full courses are appearing online.

Now, publishing giant Pearson has wrangled up nearly 700,000 of these resources into an easily searchable catalog through its OpenClass Exchange platform.

An expansion of Pearson’s online learning environment OpenClass, Exchange will allow educators to search for and access thousands of resources, including videos from TED-Ed, Kahn Academy, and YouTube EDU, as well as courses from the Open Course Library. The resource is available to all users free of charge, but users will have to register first on the Pearson OpenClass website.…Read More

New report sheds light on open educational resources

A new resource aims to help educators learn how to use open educational resources (OERs) most effectively, as it dives into proper implementation, costs, and other important factors.

The “Guide on the Use of Open Educational Resources in K-12 and Postsecondary Education,” from the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA), explains what OERs are and spells out various copyright and licensing considerations that are involved with using such resources.

A commonly-accepted definition of open educational resources, as provided by the Hewlett Foundation, is “teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others.”…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.

Participants will find speeches, webinars, and descriptions about projects such as university efforts to expand OER offerings.…Read More

Free textbooks coming for five intro college courses

Many students say they go without textbooks, even when they're required.

College students in five of the most-attended courses in U.S. higher education soon will have free peer-reviewed textbooks available to them as a Rice University-based program looks to save students $90 million in book costs over the next five years.

OpenStax College, a textbook initiative funded by myriad nonprofits including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, announced Feb. 7 that books for introductory courses in physics and sociology would be freely available to students everywhere, not just on select campuses.

Unlike most open-platform texts—meaning the work is not copyrighted and available to reprint at no cost—the OpenStax College books are peer-reviewed, eliminating a stubborn impediment for professors and instructors who haven’t adopted open textbooks because they hadn’t been vetted like books from major publishing companies.…Read More