Story  (last modified 22. Nov 2016)

Innovation and Leadership Bring Quality Elements Together

22. Nov 2016 Contributed by Council of Chief State School Officers

This article was originally published at www.ccsso.org under a CC-By license.

Open educational resources (OER) are teaching materials licensed for free use and repurposing. This case study is a part of a research study conducted by CCSSO and iNACOL. The purpose of the study is to explore the current status of development and dissemination of OER in K-12 education at the state, district, and classroom levels. For more case studies and resources, visit http://www.ccsso.org/oer.

"In Clark County, there are no policies [for OER use] that define us, or restrict us, so we can look for what works and create our own curriculum with application and scaffolding that helps to explain what students are learning,"

Kim Loomis, Innovative Projects Coordinator, Innovative Learning Environments
Clark County School District, Nevada

Background
Kim Loomis came to the Clark County (NV) School District (CCSD) more than 20 years ago, and has since worked with the Nevada Learning Academy at CCSD (NVLA) as a founding teacher, instructional designer and curriculum administrator. The NVLA is part of the CCSD and offers three programs to students in grades 6-12: A fully online high school for grades 9-12, an independent study program that operates on rolling enrollments and weekly proctored exams, and a 6-8 grade middle school blended program with online courses plus the additional support of weekly required face-to-face classes. The NVLA also hosts online and blended summer school programs.

In addition to her instructional design and professional development work, Loomis has 10 years of teaching experience in high school math, and as an administrator in CCSD curriculum and professional development. In 2011, Loomis transitioned to a new position in the district as the Innovative Projects Coordinator of  the Innovative Learning Environments (ILE) team. She oversees the deployment of the district's enterprise learning management system (LMS), development of district-level online and blended secondary courses, and district-wide K-12 teacher professional development for digital learning environments.

Challenge
With more than 40 high schools and 318,000 students in the CCSD, Loomis knew that to encourage more participation, she must do more than simply build online courses for the NVLA. She needed to get courses in the hands of classroom teachers across the district.

"I saw the high cognitive load for students working within the current framework, and with Common Core [State Standards] coming down the line, wanted to build courses that any school in our district could use within a district enterprise learning management system," Loomis says. "We needed courses for middle school and high school, so we started building courses for the district to deploy. We were given more resources, and started [working on basic course design.]"

Example of embedded Math 6 content   


Solution
Loomis and her team, including a designated administrator at ILE and four core content teachers (one in each subject area), have gone on to create middle school math and English classes (6-8), as well as health and computer classes using online courseware for schools in the CCSD. Today they are adding next generation sciences and social studies courses. Using Canvas pages (example screenshot below) as their base LMS  with Softchalk as an authoring tool, they are working toward a goal of 100,000 students, or one-third of the district, enrolled in courses driven by digital curriculum in the near future.  Loomis is grateful for her staff, and their exceptional involvement with in-house created OER.

"In Clark County, there are no policies [for OER use] that define us, or restrict us, so we can look for what works and create our own curriculum with application and scaffolding that helps to explain what students are learning," Loomis says.

For her part, Loomis sees OER as a way to make quality resources rather than picking and choosing from curated repositories. She points out key differences that make self-created OER different from what may be found online.

"Most classroom teachers have never created a curriculum," explains Loomis. "They have quality resources to pick and choose from, but are not making quality resources themselves. OER can give districts and teachers the chance to do this in a salient way."

Fighting what she calls playlist style, which may include listed resources, but without other quality teaching elements or an adherence to good pedagogy, Loomis sees the impact of OER from a development perspective, complete with the importance of wrapping quality elements around a cohesive lesson plan and curriculum goals. She has also learned much about working with outside providers to acquire resources.

"When we started our middle school math project, we worked with a quality OER provider to find resources," she says. "Previously, we have gotten burned when an online resource is pulled.  So it's important to be careful where you get your OER, because a lot of websites change over time. Also, some lesson plans on some teacher submitted sites may work for a particular teacher, but only because that is their teaching style or classroom arrangement. This type of OER material has to be fine-tuned - what works in a [traditional] setting may not always work in a blended classroom versus an online classroom."

Future Steps
Moving forward, Loomis' goal is to build full courses for Clark County students in middle and high school that are designed in a modular style, where an entire course or individual units can be utilized by educators. She would like to make CCSD Canvas secondary OER courses something that can be utilized on a state level, but also cautions that this is not as easy as some may think, based on differing access to contracts with online providers of content.

"Our district has a contract with Discovery Education, and that's a subscription service and it would be a shame not to use this quality resource when building online courses," Loomis says, underscoring the fact that not all online resources are openly licensed. "We have courses that are developed around self-created and subscription-based resources, too, and we can't just give that away. It's important for anyone looking to share OER to understand the fine balance of open and subscription or premium products."

Contact

CCSD logo

Kim Loomis, Innovative Projects Coordinator, Innovative Learning Environments
Clark County School District, Nevada
loomisk@interact.ccsd.net

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