Empowering Teachers as Designers to #GoOpen

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problems, and be prepared for jobs that don’t exist, how can we structure learning experiences with curriculum that is outdated before learners access it?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

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4 Replies to “Empowering Teachers as Designers to #GoOpen”

  1. […] Source: Empowering Teachers as Designers to #GoOpen […]

  2. kia ora (greetings) Katie

    Like yourself I want a better deal for learners here in New Zealand and globally. Over the past 12 years we have been researching just how the brain learns and the implications of that for educator-learners and learner-educators. The results of that work were nothing like we were expecting. As educators, we have been doling out kryptonite rather than agency and as a result, we have dependent, underperforming and disengaged young people.

    The project is in its last year following trials in schools in the Middle East, Australia and New Zealand (home). The resulting Global Curriculum Project frames up the why’s and how’s of learning and describes the pedagogy, competency, agency, and structures that we now require to change the 20:80 success:failure that last century required to the 80:20 ratio required for this century.

    Please find some links to some upcoming resources below and you may want to have a look at this blog post that explains the conundrum that sits at the heart of our dilemma -standards and why they cannot improve – https://mtreadwell.wordpress.com/

    The ‘Global Curriculum Project’ contains four components and these are scheduled to be complete by October 2017.

    Please find below access to the unedited introductions to three of the upcoming resources that will be released over the next 12 months. The four components of this project are:

    1. The Future of Learning – sample pre-edit Introduction to http://bit.ly/2aS2Bb6 – The completed resource will be available October 2016
    2. The Competencies: sample pre-edit Introduction http://bit.ly/1ttT68Q The final version of this will be available in Feb 2017
    3. The Global Conceptual Curriculum: to be completed/released by June 2017 Sample unedited Science curriculum available from here http://bit.ly/2bkjaMz
    4. MapmyLearning- a software application that will allow learners to map their learning against the conceptual curriculum. This resource will be available October 2017

    Feel free to download the samples of these resources for your personal use.

    For consultancy and speaking inquiries please at mark@work.co.nz or visit the website http://www.marktreadwell.com/

    ka kite ano (farewell) #marktreawell1

  3. Thanks for the resources, Mark! I appreciate you sharing and connecting.

  4. Really love your article. Teachers are amazing innovators and the best resource for their students. In my experience, the best curriculum writing uses Understanding by Design, or backward design, starting with curriculum standards, then a culminating task to show understanding, then lessons scaffolded so students can accomplish the culminating task. A juicy inquiry question sparks the unit and the arts are used authentically to bring learning to life. Cross-curricular, holistic learning follows the natural pattern of learning, according to neuroscience.

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