Where do you go to find lesson plans and digital content? How much time do you spend each week curating instructional materials and digital content? Are your textbooks more than 10 years old? Do you even have textbooks?
As INFOhio traveled throughout the state in the fall of 2018, we asked Ohio educators these questions. We found that, on average, Ohio's PreK-12 educators are spending at least 4 hours per week curating instructional materials and digital content and most of that was personal time.
How Did We Get Here?
Thirty years ago, PreK-12 teachers could easily find the majority of their instructional materials in print textbooks. As tech tools and the internet were increasingly embedded into the workplace, it became clear that students of all grades needed greater experience working with the tools that they would one day use in their careers. Increased technology in the PreK-12 classroom has given rise to new approaches to teaching, learning, and assessment including blended learning and online testing. To be able to use technology successfully, students need instructional materials and practices that enable them to improve their tech skills while mastering new literacies including reading on the screen.
Evolving learning trends have required teachers to change instructional approaches. To find instructional materials that can also improve students' tech skills, teachers frequently turn to the Web. Although it's easy to find lesson plans online, it's difficult and time-consuming to find low- or no-cost, high-quality instructional materials aligned to Ohio's Learning Standards.
What is OER?
According to the Hewlett Foundation, "Open Educational Resources are teaching, learning and research materials in any medium – digital or otherwise – that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions."
Sound familiar? INFOhio has been building teaching and learning tools tools, licensing research resources, and making those tools and resources freely available to Ohio's PreK-12 schools for nearly 20 years.
INFOhio's OER Milestones
Not only has INFOhio been making high-quality, premium educational content freely available to Ohio's schools, INFOhio has developed and openly licensed web tools that are free to Ohio PreK-12 students and educators. INFOhio has also developed tools that empower students and educators to create their own learning objects that they can share with others. Here are a few of the milestones in INFOhio's work with OER:
Since 2003, INFOhio has licensed digital content on behalf of all Ohio PreK-12 students, educators, and their parents. This gives Ohio educators and students no-cost access to digital teaching, learning, and research materials that they can use with limited restrictions. While most of these resources are not in the public domain and do require attribution, Ohio's educators are encouraged to use these resources to supplement or replace existing curriculum materials. Licensing content on behalf of all Ohio PreK-12 schools creates equity and gives each child the educational resources necessary for success.
GO! Ask, Act, Achieve is a set of online modules that break down the inquiry process into 3 easy steps. GO! points students to open access web tools and INFOhio digital resources that all Ohio PreK-12 students can use for free. INFOhio developed multiple instructional activities for GO! that any educator may use, retain, adapt, or share. GO! Ask, Act, Achieve resources are curated for grades 6-8 as a target audience. Many of the resources are applicable for grades 4-10 to use at the teacher’s discretion. Standards alignments for grades 6-8 are included in the teacher's guide.
IMatrix was a collection of several thousand standards-aligned openly licensed and open access web resources, along with content licensed by INFOhio for free use by all Ohio PreK-12 educators. IMatrix focused on the core subjects and on resources that supported standards related to the dimensions of inquiry.
IMatrix helped educators practice inquiry-based instruction aligned to skills embedded within the content standards of the four core curriculum areas. Several years after IMatrix's launch, it became clear that Ohio's educators needed instructional materials that would support all subjects and all standards. Although IMatrix was decommissioned in 2018, its legacy lives on in INFOhio's Educator Tools.
Research 4 Success (R4S) helps high school students, College Credit Plus students, and first year college students work through small and large research projects. The six modules are designed for delivery in a blended learning environment and educators may use, retain, adapt, or share the modules themselves. Additionally, INFOhio developed multiple instructional activities for R4S that any educator may use, retain, adapt, or share.
R4S module contents include open access web tools and resources and INFOhio digital resources that all Ohio PreK-12 students and educators can use for free. Alignments for high school ELA Anchor Standards are included in the teacher's guide. R4S is the first INFOhio tool to be licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
INFOhio combined Sirsi-Dynix's Enterprise interface with the EBSCO Discovery Service search and indexing API to give Ohio's preK-12 students and educators access to nearly all of the INFOhio-licensed content from a single search box. INFOhio called this discovery search tool ISearch. Those schools that use INFOhio's Integrated Library System (ILS) also have their school library catalogs integrated in ISearch.
ISearch has a wealth of digital content—including texts, videos, images, and more—that teachers can upload to their learning management system for student use. Students can use ISearch to find reliable sources for school projects. The information sources in ISearch have been curated by information professionals and are considered premium content. Little of the ISearch content is freely available on the open web. However, INFOhio has licensed the resources for all Ohio PreK-12 students and teachers to use at no additional cost to Ohio schools.
IWonder is a collection of open access web resources that have been curated by Ohio educators to support self-directed learning for upper elementary and middle school students. IWonder gives students a place to start when they need help with homework, want a fun way to practice skills such as vocabulary or math, or want to explore a topic that interests them.
INFOhio developed Book Nook to provide students with a platform to share self-created learning objects in the form of video book talks. Book Nook includes links to free recommended web tools that students can use to produce their book trailers. Book Nook also includes instructions on story-boarding and a rubric for evaluation, which provides the framework to help students graduate from content consumption to content creation.
In 2017, INFOhio launched Educator Tools, a platform that makes it easy for educators to find lesson plans, assessments, and other instructional materials that they can use for free in their classrooms.
Educator Tools includes lesson plans, best practices, assessments, and other instructional materials to support personalized learning, project-based learning, and the inquiry process.
In INFOhio’s Educator Tools, educators find the best-in-class learning resources for all grades, all subject areas, and all learning resource types to differentiate and personalize learning for Ohio's PreK-12 students.
In 2018, INFOhio licensed a microsite on the OER Commons platform, the Ohio PreK-12 Open Space. Open Space provides a platform where Ohio's PreK-12 educators can collaborate and contribute content, applying Creative Commons licenses that permit users to retain, reuse, revise, remix, and redistribute content. Upon recommendation, Open Space contents can be evaluated for inclusion in INFOhio's Educator Tools.
What Does This Mean for Ohio PreK-12 Educators?
You already have free access to high-quality, standards-aligned instructional resources and tools. When you need lesson plans, assessments, and other curricular support, use Educator Tools. Then, use ISearch to find high-quality digital texts, videos, and more that you can save or upload to your learning management system for student use. Educator Tools and ISearch are your first two steps to stepping up student learning. When you are ready to make the transition from content consumer to content creator, build your own learning objects in Open Space and share them with other Ohio educators. And when you want to teach your students to become content creators, encourage them to begin with Book Nook.
Whether you're looking to update outdated curriculum or just integrate more digital content and technology into your instruction, start with INFOhio. You can save your district some money, and—of equal importance—save yourself a lot of time.