District : Hollister R-V School District
State : Missouri
Level : P-12
District Enrollment : 1,001-10,000 students
Community Type : Rural
Hollister R-V School District: OER Ambassadors in Rural Missouri
Hollister R-V School District, in Missouri, underwent sweeping changes to their curriculum ten years ago when use of Openly Licensed Educational Resources (OER) was implemented by its administration, and teachers were asked to phase out the use of textbooks. Although curated OER is readily available to Hollister now, OER was not easily attainable when they started this journey, requiring teachers to convert existing material into an OER format that other teachers could use to create new content. Sandy Leech, the Assistant Superintendent of Instruction, was a second grade teacher at the time. She says “it was definitely the right call to adopt OER into the system, but it was difficult to manage the conversion, creation, and curriculum writing while running the class.” However, while some skeptics remained, Ms. Leech and the faculty met the challenge and embraced OER as they were given the freedom and opportunity to create novel teaching methods and resources.
Although Hollister is new to the #GoOpen initiative, the district is not a novice when it comes to OER. OER has been implemented in almost every class at Hollister, and they are qualitatively seeing its advantages. Teachers say that both they and their students are more engaged with the material because it has been personalized for them. Unlike a standard, static textbook, OER can be updated and customized immediately at little cost to the district, making the work students do consistently relevant and relatable. Additionally, teachers have the flexibility to devise engaging and effective content. For Ms. Leech, in one instance, this meant making her students “detectives for the day” to teach them about deductive and inferential reasoning. In this OER project, the students worked on various assignments on subjects like reading, writing, and mathematics around the classroom to obtain pieces of the “puzzle,” so they could apply their knowledge to make inferences and solve the mystery. Ms. Leech comments that with traditional materials, it would have been more difficult to construct such an elaborate lesson plan.
Hollister believes that collaboration is a critical component in effectively leveraging the advantages of OER by giving teachers a chance to work together and generate high-quality resources. The #GoOpen initiative also provides their district with an opportunity to connect with other members of the #GoOpen community. Hollister is participating with the Greater Ozarks Cooperating School Districts (GoCSD) in setting up get-togethers for teachers of the same grade levels and subjects, so they can share ideas. Hollister looks forward to growing and learning together with the rest of the #GoOpen network as it continues to expand.
Hollister provides the following advice to other districts thinking about using OER and joining the #GoOpen movement:
- Cultivate the Culture – Be collaborative and deliberate. If you force OER into the system, you risk alienating faculty members. Instead, build up your district’s OER strategy and resources — it is important that a positive, inclusive, non-threatening culture develops around OER. This will allow your teachers to see the advantages of OER and become the source and driving force of the initiative.
- Build an Infrastructure and Get Organized – Make sure you create a repository for your OER material that provides a centralized location for all of your resources for easy access and sustainability. Additionally, it allows your faculty to vertically align their content. For example, in Hollister, math teachers are coordinating organizing their material throughout all grade levels, so classes better align, limiting unnecessary overlap in courses year to year.
- Collaborate – Get involved and encourage others to do the same. By working together, districts can help each other produce effective OER curriculum that provides students with a relevant, personalized, high quality education.
From the U.S. Department of Education:
Points of Contact
Sandy Leech, Assistant Superintendent