Ray Huard ….Change comes so fast that teachers can no longer rely on printed textbooks to give their students relevant and up-to-date information, but finding alternatives is a daunting challenge.
“We know that educators are already doing this, searching for resources,” said Kristina Peters, an open education fellow with the U.S. Department of Education Office of Educational Technology.
To help meet the challenge of finding the right resources educators from around the nation met in a recent #GoOpen regional summit hosted by the Vista Unified School District with help from the U.S Department of Education and the California Department of Education.
#GoOpen is a national initiative aimed at helping teachers use material from the Internet in their lessons. California is one of 17 states to have a statewide #GoOpen initiative.
Known as open educational resources, the online material at the heart of the #GoOpen initiative is available for teachers to use, edit, modify and distribute.
They can include everything from scientific studies and educational videos to lesson plans developed and shared by other teachers.
“It’s a boon to educators,” said Vista Unified Board of Education Trustee Elizabeth Jaka. “It captures kids and engages them. These kids don’t want to sit at a desk with a textbook in front of them.”
Increasingly, school districts that are using open resource material are also using money that would have gone to buy textbooks to train teachers on how to best use what they get online, Peters said.
“We’re reinvesting in our teachers,” Peters said.
The push to use online material coincides with a move by many school districts, including Vista Unified, to move away from traditional teaching methods in which all students in a class learned the same material at the same time.
Instead, Vista Unified and other school districts are developing personal learning programs in which lessons are tailored to meet the needs and interests of each student individually.
The emphasis is on a student’s strengths and “providing students with an abundance of options,” said Vista Unified Superintendent Devin Vodicka.
“Eventually, we want to see students moving at their own speed, tied to their goals and real- world problem solving,” Vodicka said.
Using open resource, online material is a critical part of that, said Erin English, who organized the #GoOpen summit and is Vista Unified’s director of blended learning and principal of Vista Visions Academy.
“We give students relevant material, we don’t rely on one source,” English said. “We want to find creative places for them (students) to go” online.”
English and Marcia Mardis, an associate professor at Florida State University, said school librarians will play an increasingly important role in the transition to online learning.
They’re the ones who will have to keep track of what resources are available and best match the needs of teachers and how teachers can find it.
“We can’t just leave it to teachers, because that’s not fair,” Mardis said.
The Vista summit was the third such event in the nation as the U.S. Department of Education ramps up its #GoOpen initiative.
“The fact that the U.S. Department of Education invited us to partner with them is a great credit to our team,” Vodicka said.