Jan. 7, 2019
There are few areas of public policy where our nation’s federalism is more evident than elementary and secondary education. Across the U.S., public schools have wide latitude in how they educate the next generation of learners, producing widely varied outcomes for students.
But in an increasingly networked world, education leaders are expressing greater interest in learning, sharing, and collaborating across district and state boundaries. As information becomes more openly available online, teachers and school leaders across the country have worked to #GoOpen, or to freely and legally share educational resources to benefit all learners. Over the past three years, New America’s Learning Technologies Project has tracked and documented the progress of the #GoOpen Initiative, a movement of states and districts partnering with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Ed Tech to create and share open educational resources, or OER.
We are excited to announce our commitment as one of the first seven supporting organizations for the #GoOpen Network, and to share how we will continue to support the states and districts using OER to improve teaching and learning across the country. The other supporting organizations include Council of Chief State School Officers, Center for Open Educational Resources and Language Learning, Creative Commons USA, Digital Promise, The Library of Congress, and The Learning Accelerator.
Launched in fall 2015, the #GoOpen Initiative originally included leaders from 14 states and 40 districts focused on creating openly-licensed lesson plans, worksheets, and videos. Those who’ve signed on are committed to adopting and implementing a statewide technology strategy; developing the technical capability to publish OER; and participating in a community of practice with other #GoOpen states and districts to share learning and professional development resources. As the movement has gained momentum over the past several years, it’s also expanded both in reach and scope—now more than 20 states and 116 districts are involved, and leaders have agreed on a definition of OER that includes textbooks and full course materials. Still, OER is a nascent idea for many leaders across the country and understanding its benefits is key to scaling up.
Open educational resources are those that can be downloaded, edited, and shared freely by users. In sharp contrast to proprietary textbooks and other instructional materials, OER are openly licensed and free to access. Because of these advantages, they provide a great opportunity for schools and districts looking to cut costs and increase access to high-quality instructional materials. Though they don’t come without their own challenges—implementation alone can be burdensome—New America and our fellow supporting organizations believe strongly in the possibilities they present.
From announcing the #GoOpen initiative publicly three years ago, to tracking and analyzing the tangible changes that this movement has had on states’ and districts’ approaches to curriculum development, to reflecting back on the movement itself thus far and making recommendations for the future—New America has been a strong advocate for OER from the beginning. Moving forward, we will continue supporting states and districts to transform teaching and learning, as well as exploring new the possibilities for OER in leveraging inclusive and culturally responsive curricula. In addition to supporting these states, districts, and other organizations, we’ll continue to embed recommendations related to OER into New America’s ongoing work, both in PreK-12 and higher education.
In addition to the financial and technological benefits of OER, we believe strongly in the possibility it holds for equitizing access to high quality materials. With so many PreK-12 students across the country using vastly learning materials in different environments with different degrees of support, OER offers one possible solution for not only setting the bar high, but helping more students reach it.