Investing in Our Teachers by #Go(-ing)Open

This is the value of the teacher, who looks at a face and says there’s something behind that and I want to reach that person, I want to influence that person, I want to encourage that person, I want to enrich, I want to call out that person who is behind that face, behind that color, behind that language, behind that tradition, behind that culture. I believe you can do it. I know what was done for me. —Maya Angelou

Last year, Garnet Valley has joined 100+ Districts and 19 States from across the Nation to become a #GoOpen Launch District.  As a #GoOpen Launch district, we have accepted the challenge to replace at least one textbook with openly licensed educational resources within the next year. We are just over a year into the transition process, and we have been working closely with tool providers and mentor districts to build capacity to sustainably implement openly licensed educational resources in Garnet Valley.  Working closely with our Technology Department and Director Sam Mormando, Bill Taylor and Rebecca Henderson from Spider Learning, and our GVHS Social Studies Teachers Dave Pimentel and Christine Gumpert, we have made some huge strides in recent months.

Why we decided to #GoOpen.

Taking on replacing traditional textbooks with Open Education Resources supports three of our district areas of focus: Student Achievement, Management of Systems, and Fiscal Responsibility.

When looking closely at our Management of Systems around Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment, we realized our systems did not support our beliefs. Our beliefs center around the following:

  • We believe in investing in our teachers, because we know they are the best resource we have to maximize our students’ potential.
  • We believe in giving our teachers full ownership of what they teach, as well as a chance to personalize curriculum.
  • We believe in providing our teachers with the Training and Support they need to be up to date and successful.
  • We believe in replacing traditional textbooks with Open Education Resources.

However, our current practices had us sending approximately 70% of our funds to an outside textbook or resource company, and only keeping about 30% in-house.  This practice did not support our beliefs. Along with paying for someone else’s work (someone who does not know our community, staff, or students), very little of what we were spending was focused on professional learning around shared, collaborative, and innovative practices. Not to mention that we would purchase these textbooks then teachers would only use 2-3 chapters out of them.  Logically it did not make much sense to continue to sit around and admire a practice that did not make sense.

We are now reallocating much of our funds to our teachers for OER creation, development and/or curation, and because we don’t know what we don’t know, we have partnered with Spider Learning for work on the ongoing professional learning, resource and HUB development to support this initiative.

Visit our GVSD OER Development HUB

What we are learning with #Go(-ing)Open?

Throughout this process, we are already finding that working with Open Education Resources is increasing the quality of our curriculum and instructional design (we are now able to tap into not only our teacher’s content area expertise, but their knowledge of our students and school community as well), increasing the amount of collaboration that is happening among our staff, and increasing our ability to adapt a rapidly changing, Future Ready educational landscape…all of which will directly impact Student Achievement.

Pictured below and linked here is a sample of one of the Grade 9 Social Studies Modules. Each module corresponds to 1 Acquisition Skill listed in our Understanding by Design 2.0 Curriculum Units (adapted from Wiggins & McTighe).  These are the ‘Know and Do’ statements outlined in Stage 1 Desired Results of each Unit. For this particular course, there are 34 Acquisition Skills listed across 5 Units.  There is 1 module (complete with Transition Tasks, a Skills Based Objective, Introduction and Overview, 5 Resources with learning activities around each, a Skills Based Assessment and Benchmark Check) for each of the 34 Acquisition Skills. 

Is it a lot of work…yes…but it is meaningful work that is tapping into the expertise of our most valued resource…our teachers.  I have yet to find a situation in which investing time and resources into our teachers has not had a positive affect on our students.

Reflections on the Process & Moving Forward

For me, the biggest takeaway has been the amount and depth of work this requires.  We very quickly figured out that this was going to be a constant work in process, as well as an exciting and enriching journey in which we were all going to learn and grown (admin and teachers) together.  Our teachers, Dave Pimentel and Christine Gumpert, have been awesome in terms of not only pitching this idea a few years ago (before we had the access or capacity to do so…see Building a Foundation for Short and Long Term Future Ready Success for more on how we got here), but being open and willing to help learn and provide real time, meaningful feedback along the way to help us do this right.  

We have by no means perfected any of this, nor do we plan to….our hope is to continue to learn and grow with this process (especially as our second round of courses begin to #GoOpen this summer) and move ourselves along that change continuum.

For more on Why and What It Means to #GoOpen, please visit the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Technology’s site:

As always, thanks for reading!

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