Understanding UDL from the Dark Side: Perceptions of the Marketplace

UDL - IRN

The Universal Design for Learning Implementation and Research Network (UDL-IRN) held its 2015 Summit recently at the Gulf Park campus of the University of Southern Mississippi. The Summit had an exceptionally engaging lineup of “UDL-Talks” and breakout sessions that shared insights and collaboration ideas regarding the current and future state of UDL in K20.

At times, academic researchers get nervous about EdTech Vendors misrepresenting UDL in the marketplace. As the only EdTech Vendor on the UDL-IRN leadership team, I often joke that I’m the lone representative from the “Dark Side.” Instead of shying away from this potential confrontation, I took it head-on at the Summit, presenting a UDL-Talk titled, “Understanding UDL from the Dark Side: Perceptions of the Marketplace.”

UDL Has an Awareness Problem

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The goal of the presentation was not to contest the viewpoint of the academic researchers. Actually, the presentation fully embraced it. Those of us who are huge proponents of UDL don’t always see that UDL has an awareness and marketing problem in the marketplace.

UDL is a solid, research-based framework for ensuring exceptional learning opportunities for all students. Yet the power in the UDL framework is not well known, and unfortunately, often misunderstood and misrepresented. Practitioners (classroom teachers, professors, etc.) have little to no awareness of UDL. Barbara Bray and Kathleen McClaskey of Personalize Learning shared that only one out of approximately 100 teachers polled during recent professional learning sessions in Los Angeles had actually heard of UDL. Similarly, in Knovation’s recent National Survey on Digital Content and Curriculum, 116 educators (many District-level Curriculum Directors) ranked UDL as the least important attribute for organizing learning resources and aligning to District curriculum (12th out of 12). They can’t rank it higher because they don’t know what it is.

Places (states, colleges, districts, schools, classrooms) that embrace UDL see substantial and fundamental changes occur. UDL creates an increased focus on serving all learners, ensuring they have quality opportunities to access and engage the curriculum and express their learning outcomes. While the principles of UDL are strong, the awareness and marketing are not sufficient yet.

Addressing Misconceptions within the EdTech Community

Unfortunately, at present, the awareness and clarity within the EdTech Community is no better. In fact, many of those who are aware of UDL believe it’s isolated to Special Education. There is a misperception that UDL is an “IDEA thing,” not an ESEA concept. In other words, they miss the strength of leveraging UDL to create educational opportunities for ALL learners. UDL’s support for accessibility limits the greater appreciation of how it means so much more.

Even if the market awareness and demand for UDL becomes stronger, we still have the really important issue of skilled understanding and capable implementation of the concept within the EdTech Vendor community at large.

Loui Lord Nelson, Ph.D., and James Basham, Ph.D., do a nice job of explaining some of the Common Misconceptions and Realities of UDL in their whitepaper “A Blueprint for UDL: Considering the Design of Implementation”. On page 9 of this whitepaper, they mention that the “tool is just a tool; how that tool is utilized to engage learners, offer a different representation of information, or allow learners to express their knowledge is the path to UDL implementation.”

This is so true. Technology is NOT the answer, but a major enabler and equalizer. Therefore, the more intelligent the design of EdTech Vendor solutions, the easier it is for teachers to be the type of “learning engineers” and “iterative designers” that Dr. Nelson and Dr. Basham are calling for in their UDL Blueprint.

Converting EdTech Vendors into UDL Jedi Masters

To reach scale, the UDL community needs to bring EdTech Vendors into the fold. Although supporters of UDL implementation may be tempted to avoid the “Dark Side” of the EdTech Vendor community, I’m advocating that they embrace it head-on and use the power of their wisdom and experience (their “Force”) to turn us away from the darkness of our ignorance. It’s important that the UDL Community provide practical, easy-to-follow guidelines for education software designs with the goal of not only providing reference implementations for example pieces of software, but also including best practice UDL Guidelines for EdTech Vendors.

We need to challenge ourselves to work beyond our comfort zone and reach out to others who can be “force multipliers” for UDL. And whether you like it or not, the “Dark Side” (the EdTech Vendors) can be a powerful force multiplier – one that would better serve ALL learners if they were converted into UDL Jedi Masters!

 

Student Engagement: Who Knew Research Could Be So Addictive?

Rachel Porter
Rachel Porter
Rachel Porter, Cincinnati Christian Schools

We are pleased to feature this guest post from Knovation customer Rachel Porter. Rachel is a Junior/Senior High English Teacher at Cincinnati Christian Schools in Cincinnati, Ohio.

I have been assigning research papers for years… Not only do these things get boring to write, but also reading over 130 of them is the pits! But as I’ve shifted my approach and started assigning authentic research projects, allowing students to focus on things they are really interested in, I’ve seen increased student interest and engagement in the research process. In my classroom, gone are the days when students wrote about a teacher-selected topic. Gone are the days when students half-heartedly did research on topics that are of little to no interest to them. All teachers know that some of the best teaching occurs when you least expect it.

One of Those “Best-teaching” Moments

Three years ago, as I was taking attendance, some students were venting (complaining) about one of the many things that they didn’t like about our school. I tend to listen carefully, and then attempt to turn these types of situations into teachable moments. When I say, “So let’s have a discussion about that,” I get the collective, proverbial groan from the class, and then I know I’m headed in the right direction (insert wringing hands and deep, evil laugh here). And this particular moment was no different. I gave all students an index card for them to list as many positive things as they possibly could about our school on one side, and write a list of things that would make our school better on the other side of the card. Next, I asked them, “What would that mean to you and the rest of the student body if you could get that changed?” Some of the “complaints” would hold no water in court. However, many of them were serious concerns that the students carried close to their hearts. It was then that I had a “Eureka” moment, and said to myself, This would make a great research paper!

Authentic Research and Its Lessons

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I taught my students how to do authentic research about things that mattered to them, things that in their minds would make their school better. Ideas were coming like wildfire:

  • Changing exams to be before Christmas rather than after
  • Allowing collared shirts that have patterns on them
  • Having a student-led anti-bullying program
  • Adding an AP History course to our curriculum
  • Starting school at a later time
  • Hiring a counselor for mental/emotional needs of students

Because they were researching about something they cared about, they actually got excited to read and write a paper! They were so hyper-focused on this paper that they were chatting with me on Google docs all throughout the night to get help on how to perfectly word things so that they could persuade their audience to make the changes they were proposing.

The kicker? There was no grade attached to these presentations. I told the kids that they had to present, and they actually wanted their teachers and administrators to hear their voices and researched arguments. They believed strongly in what they were arguing, and they wanted someone other than themselves to care about it, too.

Through this research process, they learned:

  • Rhetorical devices–ethos, pathos, logos
  • How to effectively present, acknowledge and refute the opposing sides to their argument
  • How to give a live presentation and answer questions from an authentic audience (consisting of the school superintendent, the principal and teachers)
  • How to smoothly embed quoted and paraphrased material into their own writing

From Complaints to Results, Through Research

Several papers over the past three years have resulted in positive changes in our school. As a result of this assignment (birthed from a complaining group of kids) the following things have happened so far:

  • First semester exams are held before Christmas
  • A counselor comes to our school a couple times each week to offer mental and emotional support to students in need
  • Students are no longer required to wear solid-colored Polo shirts
  • Our weekly chapel service has been moved to the end of the day to allow more instruction time for teachers and more worship time for students who can stay after school

So, now when I hear a student ask why something is or isn’t a certain way at school, I say, “That sounds like a good topic for a research paper.” Of course…I still get the “roll-of-the-teenage-eyes” response, but it is then that I know I’m onto something–I know that I can tap into something they’re passionate about and teach them a ton in the meantime. Now, that’s engaging!

Shifting Accountability to Competency-based Learning

Accountability is really important in life.  Without it, we float around often lacking a sense of direction or accomplishment.  Yet, if we’re accountable to the wrong measures, we may have direction and accomplishment but be led down the wrong path.  Ideally, accountability should come from within ourselves; however, often in today’s K12 public education, we see accountability coming from the system, not the learner.

In many public K12 systems today, we focus on accountability to time – our school calendar, our pacing guides – instead of accountability to real demonstrations of knowledge, skill and understanding.  We focus on getting far enough during that time instead of ensuring that learners have achieved competency (or mastery) with the learning goals (the knowledge and skills).  Over time, gaps in competency create more significant issues in the learner’s ability to achieve the next learning goal, since he hasn’t mastered the prerequisite knowledge or skills.  Our current letter grade system masks the gaps and, at times, creates an illusion of competence.  Then, our children focus on the grade, not the learning.  They focus on passing the class, not ensuring they have the competence required for subsequent learning opportunities.  This accountability is leading the learners down the wrong path.

Re-Aiming Accountability on Competency-based Learning

For the past few years I’ve been an advocate for moving away from our current seat-time, grade-level oriented system toward a competency-based system of learning.  Why?  Primarily because I know that we all have learning differences – both strengths and weaknesses – and too often our public K12 system is focused on getting learners to move in lock-step through curriculum versus enabling them to learn for themselves.  Our kids are taught to play the game of education instead of building their metacognitive skills – “learners’ automatic awareness of their own knowledge and their ability to understand, control, and manipulate their own cognitive processes”.  Our kids are taught to focus on grades, not on learning.

A recent MindShift post by Katrina Schwartz, How ‘Deprogramming’ Kids From How to ‘Do School’ Could Improve Learning, provides a nice account of Adam Holman’s (high school teacher) struggle with making this change.  Adam said, “We know how kids learn; we know what classes should look like, and yet our classes look almost the opposite.”  Both Adam and his students had to “reprogram” themselves away from the current accountability model toward a competency-based model, where learners developed an appreciation for mastering concepts over getting letter grades.  “Teachers often complain that more progressive approaches like this suck up time and they can’t cover everything in the jam-packed curriculum. These arguments are excuses, Holman said.”

These are excuses because the system currently rewards us for adherence to the pacing guide over adherence to mastery.  We need a greater focus on what Chris Watkins in learning: a sense-maker’s guide refers to as a “learning orientation” over a “performance orientation” – one in which each child is focused on improving his learning, not proving his learning.  As Adam Holman and his learners recognized, this shift in focus toward building competency, not building seat-time credits, is not an easy one.  We have to unlearn an adherence to the current public K12 accountability model and reprogram our learning environments toward a competency-based learning model – a model in which the accountability is centered on the learner, not the system.

What’s the Purpose? And Why Is that Question so Important?

The definition of purpose:

Noun (source: Dictionary.com)

  1. the reason for which something exists or is done, made, used, etc.
  2. an intended or desired result; end; aim goal

What’s the purpose of this? For educators, I’m sure this is a question you get asked every day by your students. I remember being that kid, asking that question, especially in Algebra and Geometry classes! What’s the point of this? Why do I have to learn this? How am I ever going to use this in real life? And I can imagine how tiresome that question could be when you hear it over and over again.

Why is that question so important?

But as I look at my work as the Marketing Director for Knovation, I think about how important that question is every day, in big and small ways. On a small scale, we question what the purpose is for any marketing activity or project we take on. Why are we doing this? What is the desired result we expect this program, campaign, ad, email, conference, meeting, etc. to deliver? When you take a few minutes to contemplate the outcomes you’re after, it can definitely help you in defining what you do and how you do it so that you’re not wasting time, energy or money on things that aren’t going to lead to the desired goal.

On a big scale, we sometimes ask ourselves what is the purpose of the career path we’ve chosen? When I get up every day, am I going to work doing something I believe in, something I love, something I feel has a purpose? I can personally answer that question with a definite YES, which is why I’ve spent the past 11+ years working at Knovation. I believe in the company’s mission to serve teachers and students. I believe that the solutions Knovation offers are making a difference in classrooms around the country. Having the answer to that big “Why am I doing this?” question is motivating and can give you the drive to work hard toward realizing that purpose.

Encourage the questioning!

So the next time your students ask you the, “What’s the purpose of this?” question, I hope you can pause for a minute and be proud that you’ve created a learning environment where kids feel comfortable asking that important question. Teaching them the value of asking “WHY?” is an important skill that can help them to be successful and satisfied in their future work.

Notice Everything

How much do we notice as we go through a day? What do our students notice and remember about us and what they learn from us? As we prepare them to be college and career ready, maybe we should consider also our impact on making them consideration and compassion ready.

One Teacher’s Impact

As I reflect on this topic, I’m reminded of a story I heard shared by Lisa Beamer on Good Morning America. Lisa is the wife of Todd Beamer who said, ‘Let’s Roll!’ and helped take down the plane over Pennsylvania that was heading for Washington, DC September 11, 2001.  She said it’s the little things that she misses most about Todd, such as hearing the garage door open as he came home, and her children running to meet him. Lisa recalled this story about a teacher who had a special impact on her own life:

I had a very special teacher in high school many years ago whose husband died suddenly of a heart attack. About a week after his death, she shared some of her insight with a classroom of students. As the late afternoon sunlight came streaming in through the classroom windows and the class was nearly over, she moved a few things aside on the edge of her desk and sat down there.

With a gentle look of reflection on her face, she paused and said, ‘Class is over. I would like to share with all of you a thought that is unrelated to class, but which I feel is very important. Each of us is put here on earth to learn, share, love, appreciate and give of ourselves. None of us knows when this fantastic experience will end. It can be taken away at any moment.’ Her eyes, beginning to water, she went on, ‘So, I would like you all to make me a promise. From now on, on your way to school, or on your way home, find something beautiful to notice. It doesn’t have to be something you see, it could be a scent, perhaps of freshly baked bread wafting out of someone’s house, or it could be the sound of the breeze slightly rustling the leaves in the trees, or the way the morning light catches one autumn leaf as it falls gently to the ground. Please look for these things and cherish them. For, although it may sound trite to some, these things are the “stuff” of life. The little things we are put here on earth to enjoy. The things we often take for granted.’

The class was completely quiet. We all picked up our books and filed out of the room silently. That afternoon, I noticed more things on my way home from school than I had that whole semester. Every once in a while, I think of that teacher and remember what an impression she made on all of us, and I try to appreciate all of those things that sometimes we all overlook.

Take Notice of Something Special Around You Today

Go to the playground and listen to the conversations during play. Eat lunch at the cafeteria with students instead of in the teachers’ lounge. Try a new way of learning something with your kids – help them feel like the experts and see their faces light up. When I look back at my classroom experiences one day, it won’t be the things I did do that I might regret, but the things I didn’t do. Now when I am out in schools, I try to take the time to notice the rooms, the students and the teachers – trying to focus on something good can often act as a moment of meditation in an otherwise crazy day.

When we notice everything (or as much as we can carve out the time to notice), it makes us open to more.  Helping students learn how to make room for these ideas leads them to being compassion driven and consideration focused.  When your students have left, they are less likely to remember the facts that you taught them than they are the way you made them feel about themselves and the world around them.  Ultimately, those are life lessons that will have a huge impact for us all.

Voice from the Field: One Teacher’s Journey to Implement Standards-Based Grading

Rachel Porter
Rachel Porter, Cincinnati Christian Schools

We are pleased to feature this guest post from Knovation customer Rachel Porter. Rachel is a Junior/Senior High English Teacher at Cincinnati Christian Schools in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Being an effective educator can have some serious obstacles. One of the greatest challenges I have, one that affects my effectiveness in the classroom, is GRADES. Now, stay with me here. Over the past three years, I have been slowly making the transition to running my classroom in a standards-based manner. This means that the purpose of my grades is simply to communicate to students and parents what students know and at what level they can perform the skills being assessed.

The Challenges of Inconsistency

In my school, teachers have autonomy in the classroom, and this means they have freedom to grade however they wish. This is a great thing for someone like me who is changing everything about how my grades look. However, since I believe so strongly in the standards-based grading philosophy, this autonomy isn’t such a great thing at times. Let me elaborate. Some teachers give points for turning in homework. Some give points for bringing in tissues or candy to the classroom. Not only are points attained for these types of things, but teachers across our school weigh things differently in their classrooms. For instance, in some classes, homework is worth more than assessments. This allows students to fail all tests and still pass with a high grade in the course. This is an obstacle for me as a standards-based teacher because I am the “lone nut” in the school, and it has become my job to communicate this to students, parents and administration, so that what I am doing with grading makes sense.

Turning the Ship: From Factory Model Schooling to Standards-Based Grading

All of us grew up in what Rick Wormeli calls “factory model schooling,” and therefore, using a standards-based grading system rocks the worlds of both parents and seasoned teachers. This idea isn’t novel, but it’s different and therefore seems threatening. Not only does it seem threatening to teachers, but also it requires them to uproot their pedagogy and the grading systems that they’ve had in place for decades. This is scary.

So, how do we turn this barge around? How can one teacher in one building pave the way and convince teachers that grades should solely communicate levels of mastery as it pertains to standards being assessed in the curriculum? That’s the million-dollar question.

Here’s how I’m working on it:

  • Transition to standards-based grading in my own classroom.
  • Model it well.
  • Proactively communicate to students, parents and administration through email, screencasts and face-to-face interaction about what this “new” way of grading is all about.
  • Start the conversations during times of collaboration with my colleagues in order to break down natural defenses that will arise in the minds of these teachers.
  • Be quick to apologize when I don’t get it quite right.
  • Keep an open mind and be willing to tweak what I’m doing when evidence shows that it’s best for me to re-evaluate.

I would love to hear ideas from others who have implemented standards-based grading.

Super Storms, Icky Illnesses and Wild Winters: Keep on Learning Through it All

Winter Storms

Planning Ahead to Ensure Continuity of Learning

Continuity of Learning

Tis’ the season to be prepared. Once again, school districts across the country are determining best practices and guidelines to ensure continuity of learning in their schools in order to prepare for extended student absences due to many different circumstances. These “bad guys” trying to keep learners from their classrooms include viruses, inclement weather and other emergency situations. The United States Department of Education has published multiple recommendations for the Continuity Planning Teams at schools and districts to consider. The DOE suggests a variety of options to provide students at home with class materials, advocates digital and technology-based resources to help close the gap and reminds schools to keep all student contact information up to date.

A Plan for Sustained Learning

At the heart of a continuity of learning plan is the delivery of instruction and instructional content to students. While some content may be distributed as traditional print materials, many digital tools make that content available anytime and anywhere when you are online. Putting instructional content online allows it to be easily updated and accessible to many students.

Planning Questions

Think about these questions as you consider your plan for continuity of learning:

  1. What content can be given to students in hard-copy? How will hard-copies be delivered (pick-up location)?
  2. What content can be given to students in digital form (CDs, DVDs, flash drives)? How will digital copies be delivered (pick-up location)?
  3. What content is available online to provide to students at home anytime and anywhere?
  4. Do you have an online repository of all district curriculum offerings?
  5. How is digital content/curriculum created or selected?
  6. How is digital content managed, housed, updated, and delivered?
  7. Do you have emergency lessons prepared for students for short-term absences? How will students receive the lessons?
  8. What happens if a student is absent during mandatory testing periods?
  9. What tools will be needed to deliver instruction in the short term? Long term?
  10. Should online curriculum mirror what is being taught in the face-to-face classroom?
  11. Should educational activities be sustained for all courses or limited to core courses?
  12. Are any of your textbooks available online or in digital format?
  13. Are teachers aware of what their team members are teaching in the event that they must temporarily take over a class?
  14. How will you deliver instruction to a student who is quarantined?
  15. How will teachers deliver and collect student work?
  16. How will you decide what lessons to make available for an immediate continuity need since you will not know where you are in your teaching plans if a disaster strikes?

Going Digital for Those Going Home

Many K-12 districts are leveraging digital resources like those provided by Knovation through netTrekker and icurio, to facilitate at-home instruction. netTrekker provides students and educators with over 360,000 educator-reviewed and state standards-aligned digital resources. icurio takes digital learning one step further by offering both resources and ways for educators to create digital learning opportunities and easily assign and deliver those to students, for anytime, anywhere access.

History teacher JoAnne McClelland adds, “We have been told by our administrators if our school were to close because of an epidemic, that we are still responsible for educating all students during that closure. Most teachers panicked when they heard this. I didn’t. I feel confident that I would be able to produce effective online lessons for my students with Knovation content. I can develop a lesson in a short time, and once the lessons are created, it is very easy to alter them and reassign them to different students.”

Screen Time Versus Seat Time

Thinking about what instruction you can cover without having students in the classroom is a real shift for many teachers, and having access to digital content and the technology tools to build and deliver lessons to students who will be out of school for a period of time or even one day is a huge help. Whether you are offering instruction to span closings due to weather or creating strong learning connections for students who are home-bound, there are endless possibilities to extend educator reach outside of the school walls and overcome the unplanned breaks in the instructional calendar.

Knovation Joins Ed Tech Companies for Student Data Privacy Pledge

In an effort to build on legal protections and affirm our stance on responsibly handling student data, Knovation signed a K-12 school service providers Pledge to safeguard student privacy.

About the Pledge

Knovation joins the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA), the Future of Privacy Forum (FPF), Microsoft, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and others in the Student Privacy Pledge, which holds service providers accountable to:

•    Not sell student information
•    Not behaviorally target advertising
•    Use data for authorized education purposes only
•    Not change privacy policies without notice and choice
•    Enforce strict limits on data retention
•    Support parental access to, and correction of errors in, their children’s information
•    Provide comprehensive security standards
•    Be transparent about collection and use of data

Why We Made the Pledge

We need to help school systems take greater ownership over the management and stewardship of student data.  This requires companies like Knovation to pledge active support for policies and practices that define meaningful access and use of student data.

Other industries such as healthcare and banking have formally organized around the protection of personal data, but infrastructure in public schools has traditionally lacked data storage and handling sophistication. Companies working with our public school systems need to increase the clarity of data collection practices, support districts’ abilities to actively manage and control data access and pledge to use the information for increased learning outcomes, not consumer-based marketing.

As an education technology company that has access to student data, Knovation signed the Pledge to demonstrate our dedication to responsible data handling. The Pledge reinforces the need for safe data practices and we hope other companies will join us in our commitment to safeguarding student information.

Read the Pledge

Read more about the initiative and see a complete list of other companies that signed the Pledge here.

 

Achieving Educator Goals with netTrekker

The combination of technology and digital content can be powerful in delivering successful learning outcomes, but often the introduction of technology into classrooms fails to meet grand expectations. While we can point to several things that may contribute to this, the inability to find and deliver effective digital content is a key factor. Although there is a wealth of high-quality digital content already created and available, it costs teachers’ time to sift through it all to find exactly what they need to achieve their goals.

In asking educators to rate their satisfaction with netTrekker when trying to achieve 14 key educational goals and objectives, educators confirmed that netTrekker is delivering at a very high level of satisfaction on all key objectives tested.

92% of educators who use netTrekker are extremely satisfied that netTrekker has helped them achieve their educational goals and objectives!

These high satisfaction ratings are easy to understand–netTrekker has a team of curriculum experts who evaluate, tag and organize the best digital content from a wide range of providers and align each resource to standards. The value of easily accessing a variety of high-quality resources in different formats and at different learning levels, in conjunction with built-in learning support tools, translates to netTrekker’s high satisfaction ratings.

Top 5 Goals & Objectives Educators Achieve with netTrekker

 

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1. Incorporate 21st century skills into instruction

2. Provide a safe and reliable online educational resource for parents to use at home with their children

3. Access tools and resources that enable the transition from print to digital

4. Facilitate self-directed learning for students

5. Save time by locating quality educational resources in one place

 

To learn more, please download the full executive summary.

 

Voice from the Field: The Increasing Desire to Effectively Utilize OER for Digital Curriculum

As Knovation’s Vice President of Sales, I have the opportunity to talk with a lot of district leaders in conferences and meetings around the country. Each district has its own set of challenges and goals—some unique, some shared. One goal that clearly and consistently stands out is the desire to implement high quality digital content aligned to both state and Common Core standards that can be easily integrated with other existing systems (e.g. Learning Management Systems, Content Management Systems, Learning Object Repositories) to support digital curriculum initiatives and blended learning environments.

Free is Not Always Free

As free Open Educational Resources (OER) proliferate faster than one can keep track of and as many states now allow districts to use textbook money to purchase digital content, the goal of compiling and maintaining a solid body of high quality digital content shouldn’t be difficult to accomplish—but it is.

While most districts are eager to use OER, sifting through the millions of digital resources to identify only the best is a huge undertaking. Teachers already have too much on their plates, and many districts don’t have time or resources to build out their lesson plans and curriculum maps leveraging digital content and are looking for partners that can assist.

The reality ends up being that access to a lot of free digital content in itself is still far from crossing the finish line of implementing a successful digital curriculum strategy. The situation was perfectly described by one of our customers, Dr. Jason Van Heukelum, Deputy Superintendent for Cabarrus County Schools in North Carolina. Watch Video

Cabarrus Video Image

Dr. Jason Van Heukelum, Deputy Superintendent.

“With the elimination of much of our textbook budgets over the last several years and the intuitive understanding that digital content is the way to the future, we asked the question: ‘Is there enough available, free content on the internet that can be used to teach an entire K-12 curriculum?’ If the answer is ‘yes,’ then it’s a matter of organizing that content, vetting that content and getting that content to the hands of teachers in a way that is usable and meaningful for students. As we looked at the idea to have our own people take the time to vet internet content, organize and structure it in such a way that our students and teachers could have access to it, it quickly became apparent that it would not be cost effective.”

The Changing Resource Selection Process

In September, Knovation released the results of a National Survey on Digital Content & Curriculum that addressed the need to revise the resource selection process when acquiring digital content. The goal of the study was to share insights of what is most important to educators across the U.S. when selecting digital resources to purchase, ensuring quality and rigor of digital resources, organizing learning resources and aligning them to district curriculum and prioritizing learning object attributes, so districts leaders can employ a different logic to acquire active digital content than the one used to purchasing static textbooks.

How are you making use of OER to support your district’s digital curriculum and blended learning strategies? What is working well for you? What challenges do you face as you move forward with implementation?