Reinventing Curriculum

OER 3.0: K-12 Teachers in Michigan Are Creating and Using Deeply-Digital, OER Curricula

  • Prediction: As 1-to-1 truly becomes the new normal, the demand for deeply digital OER curricula by K-12 teachers will skyrocket.
  • Question: Will OER sites be ready to satisfy the significant demand for high-quality, free, deeply digital curricula?
  • Answer: Michigan’s #GoOpen OER site, for one, will most definitely be ready!

Hmmm. We need to back up! That Q &A — that’s the conclusion. We need to do some explaining first, e.g., what is OER, what is deeply digital OER curricula, and why will the Great State of Michigan be ready with deeply digital OER curricula?  Buckle up for a high-speed "history" — and future — of OER.

OER 1.0 – Objects in Repositories

Websites such Curriki, Gooru, CK12 and Khan Academy have long been repositories for free objects such as videos, PDFs, simulations, web sites, assessment items, etc. In the "early days" of OER (around 2015), reported that it held 5 million OER objects. But, studies found that K-12 teachers were spending six to 10 hours per week searching for OER objects — for supplements to their existing curricula. And, while there are exceptions, the dominant view is that teachers are not equipped by temperament or training — nor do they have the time — to stitch OER objects together into coherent OER lessons. Bottom line: OER 1.0 sounded like a good idea — free educational resources — but objects that are only supplemental to the curriculum and require considerable search time to find just didn’t/don’t sound like a cost effective use of a teacher’s time.

OER 2.0 – From Objects to Digitized Curriculum

Hearing from their "customers," OER sites started putting up whole OER courses. In 2016 Gooru listed 35 OER courses — semester-long curricula. More recently, Open Up Resources, a leader in OER curricula, raised $10 million and used a portion of that to commission Illustrative Mathematics to develop award winning math curricula for middle school (grades 6, 7, and 8). Bill McCallum, CEO of Illustrative Mathematics insists that these materials will remain free OER and are posted with the least restrictive Creative Commons licensing — "CC-BY." Users may take them — and do whatever you want with them!

While OER 2.0 resources are no longer just objects, the problem — as we see it — is that OER 2.0 curricula are, by and large, designed for a paper-and-pencil classroom, for a classroom where student access to computers is limited, at best. Yes, OER 2.0 curricula are on the computer, but they do not take advantage of digital resources. OER 2.0 curricula are just digitized versions of paper-and-pencil resources. 

We do understand where OER 2.0 curricula creators are coming from: equity is a real issue in America’s schools, and today it is estimated that 1-to-1 is in 50 percent of America’s classrooms. So, to maximize impact, design for paper-and-pencil classrooms.


OER 3.0: From Digitized Curricula to Deeply Digital Curricula

1-to-1 is happening. 1-to-1 is the new normal. Chromebooks can be purchased for $60 apiece.  Fifth-graders now are smartphone owners. Providing speedy WiFi in classrooms is no longer rocket science engineering, nor is it cost-prohibitive. Yes, some educators warn that computers in the classroom can be distracting; students can move from reading on a website to playing games too easily! Keeping students on task on the computers is sincerely challenging just as keeping students on task has always been.

But, there is no going back to paper-and-pencil! The "kids these days" are digital; they are "picting" — not writing. Time to produce OER 3.0 — deeply digital curricula!  Time to push schools along; time to show schools exciting new opportunities for teaching and learning. Enter, stage right, Michigan’s GoOpen OER Roadmap Initiative!

Michigan’s #GoOpen OER Roadmap Initiative: Realizing the Promise of OER 3.0

To make a long story short, CN & ES are working with Michelle Ribant (Director of 21st Century Learning at Michigan Department of Education), Ann-Marie Mapes (Educational Technology Manager at Michigan Department of Education) and Tina Tribu (Instructional Technologist and Data Specialist KRESA, REMC 12W Director) to support — read: paying  — Michigan K-12 teachers to create deeply digital, lessons and units (multi-week curricula!) — implemented as visual, interactive, browser-based, device-independent Roadmaps.

20+ teachers met at the Regional Media Center in Ingham County, MI, on Dec 1, 2018 for a day-long workshop on how to use the Collabrify Roadmap Platform (a device-independent, collabrified, free tool that supports the full life-cycle for digital lessons) to build Roadmaps. (Interestingly, Ms. Mapes officially dismissed the teachers at 2:30 — but virtually no one moved; some teachers were still there at 4:30 when ES and CN left.) This "Roadmappers" group has since been busy creating, aligning with Michigan’s standards, evaluating against the Achieve Rubric, classroom testing, and finally posting Roadmap lessons and units onto Michigan’s #GoOpen OER microsite.

For example, Ms. Monique Coulman, 3rd Grade teacher at Haas Elementary School (Michigan) developed a multi-week unit on writing for 3rd grade.  This is a relatively large Roadmap; indeed, we have had discussions with Ms. Coulman about breaking it up into separate lessons.  On the one hand, in creating week-long lessons the students may well lose the overarching sense of the unit. But, on the other hand, seeing a unit may be overwhelming. Now, exploring the separate Roadmap approach, Ms. Coulman created a Part 1 Roadmap and a Part 2 Roadmap that addressed a standard in 3rd grade geometry.  Bottom line: there is work to be done on design guidelines for Roadmaps!

(To see Ms. Coulman’s Roadmaps, go to Michigan’s #GoOpen OER site, click on "Discover" in the tool bar at the top; select "Collections" and the click on the square entitled: Collabrify Roadmap Center. Now click on the orange-colored magnifying "search" glass; type "Coulman" into the search bar that pops up in the field entitled "Search #GoOpenMichign" and click on the green-colored Search button. Click on the title of a Roadmap; then click on "view resource." You will be taken to, the Collabrify Roadmap platform; you will be asked to sign in with a Gmail address.  For more information on click here. Use the Safari, Chrome or Firefox browsers only.)

Here are some of the benefits, for students, of deeply digital, OER Roadmap lessons and units:

  • Learning activities are digital, not paper-and-pencil activities done on the computer. (And, as we described earlier, the research is clear: students write more and students write better when they write using a computing device.)
  • The learning process is made explicit and visible. Learners can see where they are going; learners can see where they are in the learning process. Learners can see exactly what is expected of them. In contrast, typically, learning activities are handed out, one at a time. With Roadmaps, students can see the whole learning process, beginning, middle and end.  
  • Because learners can see where they are in the lesson, there is more opportunity for learners to take ownership of their learning and consciously allocate their attention and efforts. Depending on their teachers’ directions, learners can move at their own pace through the Roadmap.
  • Depending on their teachers’ directions, learners can work collaboratively, creating a concept map, an animation, etc.

Here are some of the benefits, for teachers, of deeply digital, OER Roadmap lessons and units:

  • It is easy — really, truly — to change a lesson Roadmap; in literally 2-3 clicks, a teacher can swap out/swap in a learning activity or a resource for a learning activity that better suits their own students’ needs.
  • It is easy to then share a modified Roadmap with colleagues — share the tweaked Roadmap with individual colleagues or post the tweaked Roadmap back onto the site.
  • Teachers can work together, collaboratively, co-located or not, in creating or tweaking a lesson Roadmap.
  • Teachers can monitor, in real-time, what their students are doing as their students work through their Roadmaps.
  • Teachers can see the learning analytics of their students — what did each student contribute to a collaborative project, how much time did a student spend on a learning activity, etc. (This feature will be released shortly.)

Piqued your interest? Go to the Roadmap collection on Download a Roadmap lesson. Use it with your class. Wait — the Roadmap posted on #GoOpen needs to be localized for your class? No problem! Use Collabrify to modify the Roadmap! And please, share it so others can see your tweak. In fact, join the Roadmappers group; create and share your lesson Roadmaps! (Click on Groups in the title bar on #GoOpenMichigan.)

As we said at the outset, Michigan’s #GoOpen OER site will most definitely be ready to provide teachers, schools, and districts with deeply digital, free lessons and units. For more information on the #GoOpen OER Roadmap Initiative, contact ES, [email protected].