District : Columbus Municipal School District
State : Mississippi
Level : P-12
District Enrollment : 1,001-10,000 students
Community Type : Urban
Columbus Municipal School District: From Textbooks to Tech
The CMSD #GoOpen journey began about a year and a half ago, and was prompted by the realization that our outdated textbooks were no longer adequate to meet the needs of each student and to ensure that every student in our district succeeds. CMSD realized that not only did these textbooks fail to meet the standards necessary for the curriculum, but also that there are more beneficial ways to invest funds when running on a tight budget.
When we noticed a decline in student achievement based on prior textbook-based instruction, it became apparent that it was no longer cost effective or efficient to continue along this instructional path. This realization ultimately led our district to #GoOpen. Our superintendent met with his cabinet and other staff members to determine the most effective way to educate students using digital resources. The cabinet and staff worked with a consulting firm to look at different OER content and conduct an inventory of existing resources that were readily available within the district. We started by identifying district standards that needed to be met, and then matched flexible OER and other existing resources to those standards. We implemented these new programs from kindergarten through 12th grade in every school building in our district.
The transition to using OER materials impacted teaching and learning in our district in several ways. Using OER materials has allowed our educators to personalize each student’s educational experience, instead of just teaching a flat curriculum. Our students now have unlimited access to a variety of resources for learning. OER changed our teaching dramatically because it forced us to really look at our instructional model. We quickly realized that it is not effective to solely implement new technology without the appropriate corresponding instruction. Our goal to achieve success was to adapt teaching styles to align with our new digital resources instead of just layering new technology on top of the old methodology.
Our advice to other districts implementing OER is to be careful not to lead with technology, but rather to develop an effective instructional model first through comprehensive professional development and figure out what works best for your individual district. We did this through our K-16 Instructional Technology Integration Model (K-16 ITI Model). Our school district has used several different platforms in order to find, create, and curate content that was most useful for students and teachers, and we have found many great platforms that assisted us in this process. These are essential elements for achieving success through using OER materials.
The greatest challenge our district faced during this transition was pushback from the community based on the tradition of educating children through textbooks. While we found that digital content empowered our teachers to be more creative in their instruction, many members of the community did not originally support our OER initiative. In order to address this problem we focused on educating our community including teachers, the board, our staff, and parents through professional development to help them understand and feel more comfortable with the digital resources we were using in schools.
Since our transition to #GoOpen and our use of openly licensed educational resources, we have seen tremendous growth in the accomplishments of our students. As a result, we are working to close the achievement gap in our schools even further, and continue to hone in on what every child needs to succeed.