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Rethink Your Curriculum With Common Core

New standards mean new freedom to innovate. Learn how today’s digital tools and open resources help you personalize the curriculum and develop deeper learning skills in your students.

It is a cliché, but a very true one, that we live in a rapidly changing world. As educators, we face unprecedented challenges in trying to prepare students for a future that we can’t even imagine. If ever there were a time to innovate in how we educate, this is it!

The introduction of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) offers a unique opportunity to innovate. These standards call for increased rigor and the development of deeper learning skills, such as analysis, critical thinking and problem solving. To prepare students for the new assessments that will test these skills, we must rethink the curriculum and how learning happens in our classrooms.

Remix Your Curriculum Using Digital Resources

With the CCSS, districts are rethinking curriculum and looking at new instructional resources and methods. For many schools, the curriculum of the near future may be less textbook-centric than it has been in the past. The availability of inexpensive mobile technology devices, as well as the supply of high quality digital resources and tools, gives us new ways to think about learning.

Digital resources are an essential part of personalizing the curriculum for students, who can now make their own choices about what approach best meets their learning needs. Free and open-licensed educational resources give teachers a vast set of tools to use in differentiating instruction. No longer must “one size fit all.”

Open licensed resources can be modified by teachers to meet their own unique classroom needs. The resulting remixes can be shared with others, legally, as long as the original source is cited. This helps elevate the quality of instructional resources and our professionalism as teachers by putting the control over the curriculum more directly in our own hands.

Teachers in the Utah Open Textbook Project have found benefits of teaching with open resources even when those resources were distributed in a print format due to the lack of universal access to technology. These teachers found that being able to customize the open resources each year helped them think more deeply about their curriculum and resulted in better materials. The students benefitted from having books they could annotate, take home and keep. The state and ultimately the taxpayers benefitted from much lower materials costs.

The benefits are compounded when resources are digital. The Vail School District in Vail, Arizona has moved away from printed textbooks in favor of digital resources in its Beyond Textbooks program. Teachers in this program innovate by drawing from a large collection of resources and evaluating, selecting and using the very best for their students. The program also provides efficiencies in both time and cost by encouraging strong collaboration among teachers.

The next level of innovation with digital and open educational resources happens when districts, schools and teachers create their own curriculum and resources. On sites like Curriki, teachers are already creating, open licensing and sharing resources with others. A community of teachers with deep expertise in curriculum and extensive knowledge of learners needs is capable of producing curriculum that is as good or better than many resources currently in use.

What if we redirected a portion of instructional materials budgets to allow educators to collaborate, create and produce materials? Consider the how this effort will contribute a new level of innovation and elevate educational proficiency among teachers who are ultimately the most critical factor in student success.

The impetus for doing this already exists with the CCSS. The standards themselves and the needs of our students demand that we innovate and create new kinds of learning environments. As districts are looking at what that means, innovations like digital tools, open resources and collaboratively developed curriculum need to be considered. Our teachers, our students and ultimately our society will benefit.

Evaluating Resources

As schools begin to tap into a larger pool of instructional resources, the evaluation process becomes more and more important. Achieve, a non-profit organization focused on academic standards and assessment, has made available several free tools for the important work of evaluating resources, whether they are print or digital.

The OER Rubrics are designed to evaluate the degree of alignment of resources to standards, as well as to look at multiple dimensions of quality. Evaluation data from others is available through OER Commons.

Educators Evaluating Quality Instructional Products (EQuIP) is a collaboration of several states that has developed a series of rubrics for evaluating materials using a common definition of quality.

Whether you use one of these tools, modify them to meet your own needs or develop your own, having a common way to evaluate quality is an important step toward success.

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