Traditionally, curriculum has been organized in a linear path that promotes a one size fits all approach to success. When teachers are expected to follow directives, or implement programs without taking the context and unique individuals in their room into consideration, it often creates frustration because they see their students need something else, something different, but don’t feel they have the authority to make those changes. Often, the focus on compliance and covering content, rather than learning further drives the cover, cram, assess and reteach mentality. This model has left far too many behind and even many who have successfully navigated school remain ill prepared for the world we live in.
If we need people to think differently, solve problems, and be prepared for jobs that don’t exist, how can we structure learning experiences with curriculum that is outdated before learners access it?
Many districts are beginning to challenge the notion that the textbook or the scope and sequence is the “right” way to teach and with changing standards and learning expectations, more districts have opted not to purchase new textbooks. There is great potential to use Open Educational Resources (OER) to ensure the resources we use to teach continue to evolve with the world in real time.
Given that teachers often have far more intimate knowledge of the context than any outside expert about what the learners in their classroom need, empowering teachers to collaborate with colleagues to design powerful experiences for their unique group of learners is ideal. Andrew Marcinek elaborates on this in his article Open the Future:
“By nature, educators are researchers and designers within their classrooms and have always thrived on the ability to share and repurpose. As educational leaders, we must find ways to reinvest in the profession of teaching and amplify the innovative work that educators design on a yearly basis. Fostering a shared culture of learning and instructional design within an academic institution can support teacher leadership and greatly impact student growth. Openly licensed educational resources can help spark this culture and promote innovative teaching and learning by openly sharing and amplifying what educators create daily. It’s time we recognize the innovative capacity of all educators.”
Challenges That Prevent Teachers From Using OER
I wholeheartedly believe we need to recognize the innovative capacity of all educators to move forward in education. Empowering teachers as designers is critical but it can be overwhelming too. When I talk to teachers in districts that are replacing static textbooks with open education resources, the major challenges that they share include the following:
- Many teachers who have been teaching with prescribed curriculum have little to no preparation for curating and designing learning experiences.
- With much more flexibility and access to content, teachers struggle to evaluate content for alignment to standards and are not sure where to begin to look for quality resources.
- Without clear parameters, many feel uncertain about where the have flexibility to be innovative and where they don’t.
- In lieu of these guidelines, resources and time, teachers can revert back to old textbooks and teaching methods.
Strategies to Support Teachers to #GoOpen
While some districts have adopted a more structured approach that mimics linear textbooks in a digital fashion, there is an opportunity to create more personal and authentic learning opportunities with access to technology and robust content. To make these shifts, however, there is a need for some structure to help guide the learning targets, while allowing for flexibility to do what’s right for their students.
Key strategies to support teachers as designers include:
- Leverage teacher leaders who are already designing learning experiences or who are interested to create model lessons.
- Provide a framework and models for how to access and leverage high quality digital content and time for teachers to work together to support one another in the process.
- Provide teachers sanctioned time to work together to design lessons and curate effective resources to meet learning objectives.
Examples in Diverse Districts to Empower Teachers as Designers to #GoOpen
- In Houston Independent School District, the Curriculum Department and teachers created master courses for 12 subjects. The courses are designed with open education resources (OER) to promote personalization, collaboration and creativity.
- Grossmont Union High School District’s template supports teachers to curate and share resources aligned to the desired learning objectives.
- Vista Unified School District, Mentor School District and Kettle Morraine School District collaborate on The COW Project. Students accessed and shared resources across three states to collaborate on a project and demonstrate their learning.
- In Cajon Valley Union School District, teams of teacher leaders collaborate to design performance tasks utilizing resources beyond the textbook that allow for learners to demonstrate what they have learned in diverse ways.
It is clear that learning is not linear and as we shift away from textbooks, OER is an opportunity to provide teachers access to high quality digital content. But if we simply repackage new content in online textbooks and limit access to what we know at the time we compile them, how have we improved opportunities for students to engage with dynamic resources based on needs, experiences and interests?
For more resources check out the #GoOpen District Launch Packet
You can also sign up for #GoOpen Summit in Vista on October 7th