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Phase 5: Designing Professional Learning Opportunities

“The adoption of openly licensed resources has presented an opportunity for deeper professional engagement. ”
-Jeanette Westfall, Director of Curriculum, Instruction,and Staff Development, Liberty Public Schools

Professional learning opportunities ensure sustainability and scalability of openly licensed educational resources. Going open allows for tremendous flexibility in teaching approaches for your educators. Many current #GoOpen Districts implement professional learning that focuses on personalized and blended learning paradigms even before considering openly licensed educational resources. This planning makes the transition to openly licensed educational resources a logical next step. As your teachers become more confident in these approaches and in creating, curating, and sharing openly licensed educational resources, you will reap the full benefits of this transition.

Since October 2015, The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) has been instrumental in providing support and guidance for #GoOpen teams. ASCD has helped #GoOpen districts launch their strategic plans and supported a Slack channel for collaboration. This channel allows district teams to connect, share, and collaborate on ideas pertaining to their launch plans and provides asynchronous feedback for all districts.

Phase 5 Tasks

  1. Review current professional learning in your district and identify #GoOpen alignments
  2. Collaborate with other districts and organizations to develop and engage in professional learning opportunities that will sustain openly licensed educational opportunities

Phase 5 Guiding Questions

  • What is the district currently focusing on for professional learning? Are there any areas where #GoOpen would naturally fit?

    #GoOpen should not feel like one more initiative the district has agreed to do. Instead, #GoOpen should help accelerate and enhance existing paradigm shifts that districts are currently undertaking and support new instructional or school models. For example, #GoOpen aligns to districts that have signed the Future Ready District Pledge and are working on transforming teaching and learning in their district and/or those implementing project-based learning or competency-based models. To ensure that #GoOpen is successful in your district, consider professional learning a significant aspect of your strategic plan so that all stakeholders feel heard and are supported in the work.

    The transition to using openly licensed educational resources can take time and money, but not in the traditional sense. Some #GoOpen Districts integrate this work into current professional learning opportunities and leverage teacher in-service time and professional learning community meetings. This will look different in each district, but it could involve school librarians leading teachers through the curation process of discovering and tagging resources; subject matter experts modeling how to evaluate resources; and instructional technology facilitators showing how to upload resources into a district-wide repository. Regardless of the task, your staff will need time to meet, collaborate, and share during the transition.

  • What is the strategy for collaborating with other #GoOpen districts on professional learning? How will you engage local colleges or universities?

    Even though #GoOpen is in its early stages, many districts already have done this kind of work and have much to share. With the support of ASCD, who made a #GoOpen commitment to facilitate district to district collaboration, districts that #GoOpen commit to collaborating with other Ambassador and Launch districts to share their work, struggles, and successes. Many districts have started conversations with teachers in external districts and at the college and university level to plant seeds and nurture the work of this transition. Sharing professional learning opportunities between districts is one more way that #GoOpen teams can model how openly licensed educational resources work under the idea of the 5 Rs—retain, reuse, revise, remix, redistribute.

    While the use of openly licensed educational resources is gaining momentum in K-12, many higher education institutions have been using them for the past several years. Consider exploring whether librarians, professors or adjunct faculty at nearby colleges and universities have experience with openly licensed educational resources and would share their experiences, including challenges and successes. Reach out to local or regional teacher preparation program deans, university librarians, and other university-level faculty to start the conversation to engage them in your work.

Phase 5 Examples

ASCD Case Study: Inter-District Collaboration Powered by Openly Licensed Educational Resources

When education leaders from innovative districts come together, innovative projects result. That’s what happened in early 2015 when Devin Vodicka, superintendent of Vista Unified School District in California; Matthew Miller, superintendent of Mentor School District in Ohio; and Patricia Deklotz and Theresa Ewald, superintendent and assistant superintendent of Kettle Moraine School District in Wisconsin, found themselves seated at the same table during a meeting of the League of Innovative Schools. In this case, the chance meeting resulted in the COW—California–Ohio–Wisconsin—Project.

The COW leaders wanted to see if they could develop a competency-based, interstate, interdisciplinary course focusing on a single topic. Each district sent two teachers to the Mentor School District outside Cleveland to work on the project for three days. Together they developed curriculum around a singular guiding question: “How do people affect the land and how does the land affect people?” They “focused on Common Core English language arts (ELA) standards for the skills and learning, using social studies as the context for addressing those standards,” said Theresa Ewald, assistant superintendent for teaching and learning for Kettle Moraine.

One challenge was having enough internet bandwidth in the school to support the extensive online collaboration between the three districts. Another issue was that there wasn’t any off-the-shelf content for what they were teaching. All of the materials had to be something they had built, adopted, or adapted. To address this issue, a number of openly licensed educational resources were created jointly by teachers across the three districts as well as curated from existing resources. In addition to developing units of study tied to standards and finding appropriate resources for activities, the COW teachers designed the specifications of a project through which students would demonstrate their learning.

#GoOpen Regional Summits

#GoOpen Regional Summits provide classroom, district and state leaders with the opportunity to discuss and explore opportunities to expand the use of high quality, openly licensed educational resources in classrooms. In addition to cross-collaboration and exploration on these topics, educators are able to familiarize themselves with the #GoOpen Launch Packet, receive support in determining district readiness for transitioning to openly licensed resources, and develop mentor and peer relationships between district and state leaders in order to establish long-term sustainability and collaboration. #GoOpen Districts are encouraged to plan and host their own #GoOpen Regional Summit. Additional resources for planning a district Summit can be found in the #GoOpen Regional Summit in a Box.

Leading with Professional Learning

Liberty Public Schools, Liberty, MO

Liberty’s systemic approach to implementing openly licensed educational resources started with making the decision a year ahead about which textbooks and instructional materials would be replaced by openly licensed educational resources. The district also developed a strategy for implementing intensive professional learning for the teachers who would be most affected by the change. Jeanette Westfall, Director of Curriculum at Liberty Schools, explained, “A year ago when we first started moving toward the the inclusion of open educational resources (OER) in educators’ practice, it was a “thing” and now it is a standard expectation for all courses to consider use of OER compared to proprietary and free resources as they go through curriculum review and alignment.”

After making the decision to replace its current social studies and science curricula, Liberty decided to take a portion of the money previously set aside to purchase static textbooks in those content areas and invest it in professional learning experiences that would help teachers in those subject areas learn how to create and curate openly licensed educational resources. Liberty also used some of the funds to support teachers in learning new classroom models such as project-based learning that would become more feasible to implement given the flexibility of openly licensed educational resources. This intensive support built capacity for the transition, motivated teachers to both create and curate the needed learning resources, and helped them learn effective ways to use the resources in new and more engaging learning models. This paradigm shift of transitioning to OER as a standard of practice did not occur overnight. It took time, careful preparation, and ongoing support to succeed.

Currently in their second year of implementation, teacher leaders have been identified across 6 different subject and grade levels to lead the #GoOpen team. These leaders share responsibilities, including reviewing all instructional materials to determine if OER, proprietary, or a combination of the two should be considered; submitting a 3-year budget proposal; planning professional learning; and creating lessons. The team members meet up to six times per year and can bring an additional 24 content teachers per meeting. As part of their proposal, content teachers are able to devote time to improving their practice by attending math workshops, classroom visits with a coach, or statewide conferences.

Liberty Public Schools is excited that the choice to use OER compared to traditional instructional materials is spreading to other grade levels and subject areas that are not part of the #GoOpen team. The adoption of openly licensed resources has presented an opportunity for deeper professional engagement. For example, the world languages department, has delayed the purchase of traditional textbook curriculum in order to dive deeper into their teaching practices and devote greater attention to levelled reading and student growth. Science teachers have volunteered to design a district-wide lesson on the 2017 solar eclipse and are collaborating across grade levels to organize, curate, and provide differentiated content appropriate for each grade level. Said Westfall, “In respect to #GoOpen and because of the direction the district is headed, these schools are leaning in and it’s becoming a standard of practice.”

Phase 5 Resources:

Now is the Time to #GoOpen

The #GoOpen District Launch Packet was designed to provide specific guiding questions, best practices, district examples, and practical steps to take to #GoOpen. We hope this Launch Packet has been helpful in your journey to transition to openly licensed educational resources.

#GoOpen will continue to grow as more districts see the opportunity to increase equity, reallocate funds, provide relevant digital learning resources, and empower teachers as creative professionals.

Are you in a district that has not yet decided to #GoOpen? Contact tech@ed.gov for more information.

Now is the time to #GoOpen!

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