The Coronado Unified School District participated in a case study conducted by iNACOL and the CCSSO (Council of Chief State School Officers) regarding the use of Open Educational Resources (OERs). Open educational resources (OER) are teaching materials licensed for free use and repurposing. The purpose of the study is to explore the current status of development and dissemination of OER in K-12 education at the state, district, and classroom levels. For more case studies and resources, visit http://www.ccsso.org/oer.
Led by Superintendent Dr. Jeffrey Felix and a core team including Senior Director of Learning Claudia Gallant, and Technology Director Ramona Loiselle, CUSD has been on a journey toward OER implementation since 2010.
Acting as the “chief technology guy” as well as his district’s superintendent, Felix has extensive experience implementing technology initiatives. Stemming from graduate studies in computer science and education, Felix says that his comfort level with technology has helped lead his district to various new projects and programs involving OER.
After attending an iNACOL Blended and Online Learning Symposium about five years ago, Felix and his team were inspired to do more with blended learning, which included the use of OER.
“At that time,” Gallant explains, referring to a need that the CUSD had for new high-school level science texts, “our resources were limited, with no new textbook resources from the state of California, and limited funds for textbooks. Teachers needed a current, really good instructional material as a textbook tool.” The district answered that challenge by enlisting an in-house team to design one.
Making changes to the instructional materials was not easy, Felix says.
“There was some teacher pushback,” Gallant says. “Concerns about newness, and not having a traditional textbook in their hands.” But, Felix and his team say they have been able to overcome these barriers with a dedicated effort.
“Leaders here are not encouraged to be innovative,” Felix says. “Nothing encourages us to be creative, to be an entrepreneur. This is very discouraging as a leader. When you do try that, or come out with that, you know you’re going to get hit, get barbs... and you do it nevertheless because you think it’s a good idea.”
The team at CUSD learned about about the free, high-quality OER available through CK-12, especially in math and science. Coronado High School biology teachers wrote a digital textbook using those resources as the foundation, and at the same time, acquired a number of netbook devices thanks to a federal grant. Since then, the CUSD middle school science team wrote a Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)-aligned digital text for grades 6-8 that is still in use and in its third year of annual revisions. In short order, Felix dispatched teams to look more closely at the new California math adoption list.
When it came to math textbooks, “we realized quickly that publishers took the non-Common Core version and changed the order [of the chapters],” Felix says, citing the lack of updated math textbooks that were truly aligned to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).
Felix and his colleagues found many OER learning objects and repositories and added to what was there, noting both Georgia and North Carolina as states with a vast array of completely aligned resources. To house their learning materials, CUSD utilizes the learning management platform Haiku, which incorporates a single sign-on and compatibility with Web 2.0 software, as well as an internal dropbox for student assignments and Google Apps for Education.
Felix and his team describe their work with OER as homegrown; they watch and pay attention to other organizations, like the K-12 OER Collaborative, and attend symposiums and workshops to find out what other states are doing, as well as what’s happening in California. More recently, the district’s biggest project resulted in a K-5 curriculum map that uses a variety of OER from across the country, coordinated and aligned to standards and assessments.
When asked what challenges remain for OER use in her district, Gallant notes that it does take a lot of time and funding to find and appropriate OER resources for use.
“That is the missing link,” Gallant says. “What tools are out there? What rubrics? How does a school board, that has to approve all texts, provide them? The organic document that is constantly being updated - do we have to continue to bring it back to them? There is no guidance from the state about the approval process; where is the parent access? Where have you put the science digital text so that anyone can see them and use them?”
These are some of the questions Gallant says she and her team are grappling with in their work at the district level. And they are finding answers to these questions, with positive results.
“For our science team creating that digital textbook using OER three years ago, we took the California Standards Test (CST). [CUSD 8th graders] scored 82 percent at or above their standards,” which Felix says is several percentage points higher than both the 5th and 10th graders who are not using properly aligned instructional materials.
“We are proud of that,” he continued, “and intend to keep putting ourselves out there.”
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