OER and Professional Learning Communities in Massachusetts


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.

"All of our teachers use OER in some capacity."

Grace Magley, Supervisor of Online Learning and Blended Learning Specialist
Natick Public Schools District, Massachusetts

Grace Magley is the supervisor of online learning and the blended learning specialist for Natick Public Schools District in Massachusetts, with 6,000 students and 600 teachers. With prior state-level experience in collaboratives and state agencies, Magley has taught courses and workshops throughout New England that include training on how to find and use open educational resources (OER) within the framework of blended learning. During the three years she's spent in her current position with the Natick district, Magley continues work in blended learning instruction that implements OER in curriculum units, assessments and content systems.

For Magley, locating OER is a barrier to a more widespread use of OER in Natick and beyond. There is so much to choose from online, she says, that making it easier for teachers to find openly licensed learning objects is important to continuing the growth of blended learning and OER use in the district.

"We absolutely would like to know more about what [resources] teachers are pulling, but it's hard to have control over that. We are trying to find a way to have an online social network of sorts - with resources teachers are using and talking about in their community," Magley says.

Magley and her colleagues have looked at various subscription and paid databases, which she says can cost upwards of $25,000 per year. She mentions a pilot of Trails, and is continuing to look for a way to put together resources currently in use by educators in Natick.

"I want to make an online community for our teachers that is easy to access and use to pull out resources - things that may be in use at other schools in our district," Magley says. "It is difficult to find something that is cost-effective, but allows resources to be tagged, and lets us bring in resources from anywhere."

In her district, Magley says the focus for professional development is in professional learning communities (PLCs), which allow educators to work together when redesigning curriculum. OER is a major part of this process, which stems from the bigger perspective of blended learning in the district. Magley feels that blended learning is transformative, allowing educators the ability to decide how they personalize learning. 

Another important part of Magley's courses and training is a Universal Design for Learning (UDL) component. Magley helps educators understand how to assign resources of different formats with a blended learning framework; they can reach different learners when a blended learning course is designed that way upfront.

"That is what I am all about," says Magley. "I love when they find something that they get excited about. [Educators] are looking at it from a lens of UDL - how can I reach different types of learners?"

"All of our teachers use OER in some capacity," Magley continues.

"We talk about teachers creating their own content," Magley says. "[but] they don't need to create a lot of these things because there is so much out there. I think these resources are as good as what we could purchase, it's just not at their fingertips."

She continues, "a lot of big districts buy into canned software systems. Here, we are big believers in PLCs. This is something we are firm on in our district. We teach to the standards, but how teachers get there is what we allow. We have common assessments and a curriculum, but we want innovation and for our teachers to bring their personality into what they teach."

Future Steps
Moving forward, Magley wants to continue looking for the best resources, which for now she inputs into a spreadsheet repository that she maintains. One of those resources is readworks.org, which Magley says is similar to what the district would normally pay for, but in this case is free and available online. She would also like to help teachers work effectively and think on a bigger scale when designing their courses.

"Teachers have a mindset that they have to develop everything on their own," says Magley, "but I'd like to get teachers to be open to going to a community outside the Natick community. There is so much power in that."


Natick PS logo

Grace Magley, Supervisor of Online Learning and Blended Learning Specialist
Natick Public Schools District, Massachusetts
508-647-6400, x1510