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Phase 1: Set Goals and Strategy

“The digital conversion has enormous potential, but it requires a shift in how we approach teaching and learning. It also requires a different prioritization of resources.”

-Dr. Gary Lilly, Superintendent, Bristol City Schools

#GoOpen Districts that choose to implement openly licensed educational resources when existing resources are due for renewal start by putting together a team of people at the district level to review and evaluate the resources and what is needed. The team decides which content areas and grade levels might be appropriate candidates for replacement by openly licensed educational resources. The team then decides whether to curate existing resources, create new ones, or implement a combination of the two. It also decides how they will organize and incorporate the new resources into the district’s digital learning infrastructures.

Phase 1 Tasks

  1. Organize a district team to review and evaluate static, traditional textbooks and instructional materials that are due for renewal 12 months from now.
  2. From the list, determine which content areas and grade levels are candidates for replacement with openly licensed educational materials.
  3. Conduct an initial search of existing openly licensed educational resources to determine whether there is a deep enough pool of high-quality resources available for the content areas and grade levels you have earmarked for possible replacement; evaluate them to determine whether they align with state standards and your district’s goals for student learning.
  4. Based on your human and financial resources, and schedules, decide whether your strategy will be to curate existing openly licensed educational resources, create your own, or some combination of the two.
  5. Decide how you will organize and incorporate the new resources into your digital learning infrastructure.

Phase 1 Guiding Questions

  • Which content areas and grade levels are appropriate candidates for replacing static, traditional textbooks and materials with openly licensed educational resources?

    For most #GoOpen Districts, the decision about which content areas and grade levels to focus on is based on where new resources are most needed. Are there gaps in your curriculum that can be filled with new resources? Do you need resources that better align with new state standards or your district’s learning goals? Do you have teachers with experience with new resources who are excited about the opportunity to implement new learning models?

    As you make these determinations, you might decide that a system-wide transition is not feasible. Selecting one content area in one grade level is a practical step some #GoOpen districts have taken to get started. Once you begin the process, your transition can be scaled to more content areas and grade levels over time.

  • Are there any openly licensed educational resources available that you can adopt for the content areas and grade levels you have selected? Do they align with standards and your district’s student learning goals?

    Openly licensed educational resources range from images and media to be used as single learning objects to full courses that can be used in many classroom settings. The library of openly licensed educational resources continues to grow daily as more educators discover the power in creating, remixing, and sharing. Many of these resources can be discovered and curated through a variety of #GoOpen platforms that have committed to integrating new features to enhance the discoverability of openly licensed educational resources. Reach out to other #GoOpen Districts to learn more about which platforms might be most useful to you and materials they have found to be effective. My Digital Chalkboard is one of several websites that list a number of sources for openly licensed resources.

  • Based on your available human and financial resources, and schedules, will you curate openly licensed educational resources or create them or both?

    While the library of openly licensed educational resources continues to grow, there are cases where existing materials are not a complete match for a specific learning objective or do not fully align to a particular state’s standards. In these cases, open licenses allow districts to take materials that are close to what is needed, but not an exact match, and adapt and remix them for their needs. If no suitable starter materials can be found, districts create them from scratch and then openly license and share them so other districts can benefit from their work. This process is more labor-intensive but allows for significant customization to district needs.

  • How will you organize and distribute and openly licensed educational resources to teachers and students?

    Once the resources have been curated and/or created, you will need to organize and incorporate them into your existing digital learning infrastructure. Some #GoOpen Districts choose to use their Learning Management System (LMS) to aggregate the resources and create full courses that can easily be distributed to students. Others choose to assemble the resources into flexible digital books or playlists that can be updated and accessed on all platforms, including mobile devices. Some choose to print their resources as textbook alternatives, although this approach precludes efficient updating and further customization.

Phase 1 Examples

Focus on Personalized and Blended Learning

Bristol City Schools, Bristol, TN

In Bristol’s newly developed district strategic plan, district leaders placed an emphasis on personalized and blended learning paradigms that align with Future Ready and other recommended practices outlined in the 2016 National Education Technology Plan (NETP). Bristol City Schools has just over 4,000 students enrolled among five elementary schools, a single middle school, one brick-and-mortar high school, and a virtual high school. The district’s free and reduced lunch rate is just over 53%, with the rate at some of the four Title I schools significantly higher. The district has a fiber network and robust wifi in all of its schools that supports a 1:1 laptop program for grades 4-12. Many teachers collaborate through video conferencing and work on shared Google docs to discuss best practices, share insights in their teaching, and work on common assessments.

As a result of shifting content standards, a new state accountability and assessment system, newly approved instructional paths, and the 1:1 environment, Bristol was recently presented with the opportunity to take a new approach to math instruction.

Rather than teaching math as disparate disciplines such as algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and analysis, Bristol’s math teachers elected to create integrated mathematics courses. This change required new instructional resources, however, the district had no funds to purchase new textbooks. “The digital conversion has enormous potential, but it requires a shift in how we approach teaching and learning, said Dr. Gary Lilly, district Superintendent. “It also requires a different prioritization of resources.”

Being that this was the system’s first attempt at OER content creation of this magnitude, the process began with the formation of a small group of teachers and staff that had shown interest in the project. The team, consisting of a few district math teachers, a math curriculum specialist, and a well-respected math professor from East Tennessee State University, was overseen by the Niswonger Foundation’s Director of Programs and the BTCS Curriculum Supervisor. The idea behind keeping the initial team to a more manageable number of participants was that it would limit exposure to the inevitable technical and logistical hurdles inherent in such work to a small number of dedicated people who had already accepted the challenge. Once a reasonable system for content development was in place, other teachers could develop their own content with significantly less time and energy spent, and the project would be able to more easily maintain momentum.

One of the unintended but much appreciated benefits of the small group setting was the connection, trust, and understanding that formed among team members. One of the teachers, Scott Lamie, stated that the process of creating the Flexbook was like “having a professional learning community on steroids.” While a typical PLC focuses on students’ current progress in classes, the process of building the book required that participants address larger questions regarding how students learn and what teachers truly need in a resource.

The team ultimately decided that teachers and students would benefit from a resource that acts as a foundation for instruction while leaving open the possibility of and providing the motivation for exploration and creation of additional OER materials. This idea inspired the team to undertake a process that involved combining content already available and creating new content that better fit the team’s overall vision, which is a process they hope users will also appreciate. As Mr. Lamie remarked, “one of the greatest benefits of focusing on OER materials is that it puts creativity and power back in the hands of user. We wanted to provide a resource that, while covering the basic needs of the user, acts as a catalyst for creative thinking and explorations by both students and teachers.”

#GoOpen Quick View Entry Point Examples

Colonial Public Schools, New Castle, DE

Content Area Chosen: Reading and Social Studies, K-12


  • Lack of affordable materials that matched demanding new ELA state standards.
  • Desire for more dynamic curriculum and access to resources from a much wider variety of sources than a static, traditional textbook/program could provide.
  • Desire for teachers to focus lesson plans on meeting the outcomes described by the standards rather than focusing on teaching to the textbook.
  • Desire to transition to an approach compatible with blended/personalized learning where resources can evolve with the needs of student learning.
Fallbrook Union Elementary School District, Fallbrook, CA

Content Area Chosen: Middle School Science, Grades 6-8


  • Desire to support implementation of Next Generation Science Standards(NGSS)
  • Lack of current materials and resources that matched NGSS
  • District was already developing supplemental curriculum in grades 6-8 NGSS
Lewis Central Community Schools, Council Bluffs, IA

Content Area Chosen: Math, Grades K-1


  • Desire to have cohesive scope and sequence aligned to Iowa Core Standards
  • Support innovative teaching practices and instructional methods to more precisely engage and address the learning needs of all students
  • Empower teachers to discover, vet, and use high-quality learning materials
Vista Unified School District, Vista, CA

Content Area Chosen: Science and ELA, 7th Grade


  • Desire to support competency-based instructional model that creates inter-state and interdisciplinary educational opportunities
  • Provide students with access to current and relevant materials
  • Middle school has more flexibility in grading practices

Phase 1 Resources:

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