When the U.S. Department of Education launched its #GoOpen campaign to states and school districts to use openly licensed educational materials, Garnet Valley was all-in hoping to reallocate money being spent on textbooks and to partner with our teachers to create digital resources and curriculum. As with the other 55 school districts that signed up across the country, we were committed to investing in digital learning, keeping our curriculum relevant and high quality, and ultimately empowering our teachers to adapt and customize their materials to meet the needs of their students.

Our driving principles behind the move have always been that:

  • We believe in investing in our teachers because we know they are the best resource we have to maximize our students’ potential.
  • We want to give our teachers full ownership of what they teach, as well as a chance to personalize their curriculum.
  • We want to provide our teachers with the training and support they need to be up to date and successful.

After analyzing our beliefs, we realized that our previous practice of curriculum development did not support these goals and was becoming more difficult to sustain over time. Before OER, approximately 30% of our expenditures went to support our teachers, and only a fraction of that to PD, while 70% went to outside textbook companies. With OER, we are now focusing 100% our resources on our teachers for both professional development and product. This practice now supports our beliefs about the importance of our teachers and empowering them to be an integral part of the process.

We also learned rather quickly that the OER process was not going to be an easy transition. We were not prepared in-house to deliver the professional development and training needed to be an #GoOpen District, so we formulated a partnership with Spider Learning (@SpiderLearning) to help us steer through the maze of OER resources and to provide our teachers with the necessary training needed to accomplish our goals.

Bill Taylor and Rebecca Henderson (@RebeccaSpider) have been valuable resources and have provided our teachers and administration with much-needed PD in the area of OER. Our work began just over a year ago with trainings that provided our teachers with the tools needed to evaluate the current status of their courses, to develop a clear vision of their use of OER, and to lead us through the process of finding quality resources that can be used to meet the individual needs of students while still being fair use compliant.

Our work this semester will center on examining various elements of OER models. Training will also assist our teachers in translating their curriculum documents into scope and sequence of skills documents, help organize the course content flow, and fit the content to our instructional model. Our goal is that this Open Education Resource work will continue to promote collaboration and participation in the curriculum development process among all stakeholders.

While we have a lot more work to do such as organizing our scope and sequence documents in a central location, finalizing our timeline, and defining the review/acceptance process, the initial stages of OER have been productive and have stretched our entire District’s thinking about the process of, systems around and interconnectedness of curriculum, instruction, resources, and assessment.

Our OER team consists of high school teachers  Dave Pimentel (@MrP_GV_10) and Christine Gumpert (@gumpgvhs), High School Assistant Principal, Dr. Kingsborough, Assistant Superintendent, Mrs. Dunn (@plwdunn), Curriculum Supervisors, Anthony Gabriele (@mrgabriele) and Dave Vapniarek (@gvsd_STEAM), Instructional Technology Specialists, Julie Devine, Janine Conley, Mike Simone (@GVSD_ITS), and Literacy Specialist, Kate Bienkowski (@kdbiens).

We look forward to continuing our work.