U.S. Ed. Department Signs Up 13 States for #GoOpen Initiative

By Benjamin Herold — February 27, 2016 2 min read

By Jaclyn Zubrzycki. Cross-posted from the Curriculum Matters blog.

Thirteen states and 40 school districts are joining the U.S. Department of Education’s open education resource initiative, #GoOpen, federal officials announced today.

The Education Department launched its #GoOpen initiative, which encourages states and districts to use open resources, last October.

Open education resources are available for free, unlike traditional textbooks and workbooks, and are often released under licenses that allow them to be shared or altered by users. They’ve posed a challenge to commercial publishers, which say many open resources are oversimplified or lacking. Districts and teachers are still figuring out how to manage, evaluate, and use the materials.

But they’ve been embraced by the Education Department, which recently proposed a set of regulations for open curricula and hired a full-time staff person focused on the resources. ESSA, the new federal education law, also allows states to target federal grant money toward open education resources.

The #GoOpen states and districts are tasked with developing strategies for the use of such materials.

In a press release, John King, the acting education secretary, said the resources can increase equity “by providing all students, regardless of zip code, access to high-quality learning materials that have the most up-to-date and relevant content.”

Education department officials said the materials allow districts to invest in technology and other needs instead of costly curricular resources.

Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin are in the first “cohort” of states to launch #GoOpen Initiatives. The states will develop technology strategies that prominently feature the use of open education resources, develop repositories for open resources, and will share strategies and lessons with one another.

The participating districts will also create strategies for the use of open education resources. Thirty-one districts will replace at least one textbook with an open resource. Nine districts will “mentor” those districts. (See the full list of districts here.)

The department has the support of a slew of organizations and companies: The Center for Digital Education is creating a guide for selecting digital resources; Creative Commons, which licenses open content, will be holding workshops for districts hoping to use more open resources; Amazon Education will provide infrastructure to the Education Department; and ASCD will provide professional development through an online course, among other supporters.

The professional development organization ASCD also released a set of case studies and polls on open education resources tied to the #GoOpen initiative today. The case studies highlighted collaborations between school districts in California, Ohio, and Wisconsin and in rural schools. The poll, conducted in late January through the organization’s Smartbrief newsletter, found that more than 50 percent of teachers surveyed are in schools and districts where the use of open resources is prevalent.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.