District : Natick Public Schools
State : Massachusetts
Level : P-12
District Enrollment : 1,001-10,000 students
Community Type : Suburban
Collaboration is Key: Natick Public Schools’ #GoOpen Journey
Natick Public Schools is a suburban school district located southwest of Boston. The school community has about 5,400 students and 600 educators. Grace Magley is the Director of Online learning in Natick, and her office was established to strengthen and deepen the district’s implementation of digital technologies in support of deeper learning and personalization.
Natick teachers use digital learning technologies, tools, resources and online content in conjunction with blended learning models to improve teaching effectiveness, student engagement and learning outcomes. Ms. Magley explains, “We believe that when digital learning is used in combination with a skilled classroom teacher we can better match the child’s learning and learning style to meet the challenges of higher standards for college and career readiness.”
The district encourages teachers to find, create, use, remix and share openly-licensed educational resources (OER) to support a rich and engaging digital learning environment for students. They do this through district provided courses, workshops and in their Professional Learning Communities (PLCs). There are many opportunities in Natick to engage teachers in exploring what OER are and the best ways to find and evaluate them. Natick provides a professional learning course, Designing Blended Curriculum Units, designed to guide participants through the process of creating blended instructional units for a 4-6 week curriculum unit. The course covers Creative Commons Licensing and how to create and remix video lessons using multimedia from sites like Ted-Ed, TeacherTube and YouTube. Natick also has an online OER module on the district’s learning management system (LMS) that teachers can take for in-district credit at their convenience.
The most rewarding part of working with teachers who are using OER resources for the first time is when they find that perfect OER to support their students in learning a new concept or skill. They get so excited and they get hooked on being able to differentiate the learning for the students in their classrooms. The Office of Online Learning curates OER content for PLCs and for the courses and workshops that Natick provides. Course participants are surveyed about what they currently use and this information is also made available on the LMS. The challenges are in helping teachers to effectively find quality OER. Another challenge is providing teachers with time to rework their lessons to embed a variety of rich multimedia resources that engage students and scaffold learning to give them choices in how they learn and how they demonstrate what they understand. “In Natick when our teachers are allocated time to work collaboratively in their PLCs on their curriculum and we have curated free district resources for them, teachers will explore more, share ideas on instructional practice, and will incorporate more of a variety of resources to meet their students’ needs,” says Ms. Magley.
Some advice for schools or districts that are just starting to use OER in a scaled way is to develop a process to ensure that educators are given time to develop the skills needed to effectively use OER in their classrooms. To do this effectively, teachers need to work in teams to find OER solutions based on their established criteria and then have time to try out the OER, adapt them, reflect on their usefulness, and share the results through a digital platform.
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