Six Excellent Resources for Educators Embracing New Ideas

There’s more free (and good) stuff online for educators than ever before.

In particular, the number of relevant, high-quality professional learning resources for educators and school leaders is growing fast. While attending the iNACOL symposium in Nashville, I was struck by how many organizations, for profit and nonprofit, have moved their “collateral” to Open Education Resources (OER). As part of a larger movement in education to think differently about how we approach school, these organizations are curating, publishing, and sharing their research and strategies in a variety of ways, all of them online and open to the public.

I’ll highlight six of the best resources I discovered at iNACOL.

1. LEARN NEXT, A Toolbox for Educators to Transform Practice, 2Revolutions

2Revolutions, in partnership with 11 other organizations, asks, “What would it look like if we transformed the traditional stand and deliver model into something much more flexible, engaging, and effective?” Just as schools move to competency based learning (CBL), so too can CBL characterize professional learning. The LEARN NEXT toolbox features learning progressions, and the materials invite choice, whether with playlists or scaffolded course modules or where to begin. They’ve anticipated the human resource need, and educators can apply for micro grants to support work with the toolbox.

2. The Transferable Skills Assessment Project from the Great Schools Partnership (in collaboration with EdTechTeam)

These two organizations are building an online system intended to “support the design, implementation and scoring of performance assessment tasks” of five “transferable skills”: communication, problem solving, informed thinking, self direction, and collaboration, For each transferable skill, they provide scoring criteria, a task model, and a sample task. They, too, are looking for educator partners who would use their resources and design more.

3. reDesign

I met and learned from Dixie Bacallao, Director of Instructional Coaching at reDesign, who led the session “Taking Competency-Based Education to the New Level.” In hopes of doing that far beyond Dixie’s session, reDesign partnered with Springpoint and received support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York to build Making Mastery Accessible, a collection of resources for building a “mastery learning system.”

4. XQ

As a sponsor, XQ had a large presence at the iNACOL symposium. Most visibly, their CEO and co-founder, Russlyn Ali, gave one of the keynotes, “The Evolution of Equity in Rethinking High School.” Prominent in their work are open-source resources and a commitment to building a network of “educators, students, families, and civic-minded citizens” to reimagine high school. They aim to transform every high school so every student can succeed. Their online resources focus on ten topics, including deeper learning, school design, and the future of work. Within each topic, they’ve provided content knowledge resources in video, audio, and article formats along with tools, such as a career assessment tool within the future of work resources. Some topics include “interactives,” a series of questions aimed at rethinking something such as standardized testing. Much of the content aims at making the case, providing compelling reasons for why we need this now and how such extensive change has to and can happen.

5. Transcend Education

At iNACOL I learned from Jeff Wetzler and Sujata Bhatt about Transcend’s abundant OER, including their Graduate Aims Database, a rich, research-based document articulating learning targets for a variety of key skills. They also recently published a Designing for Learning Primer and Cards to help schools better understand the research base for learning and audit their own practices. Bhatt also shared the Incubator School Playbook, based on the work of a public school in Los Angeles that supports student entrepreneurs.

6. Next Generation Learning Challenges (NGLC)

Andrew Calkins introduced me to “Innodoption” approaches, where “the organizational change processes reflect the central agency-driven nature of the student learning model and goal-set.” This approach is part of NGLC’s “MyWays Student Success Framework,” a collection of resources meant to guide schools through a redesign process that supports student-centered learning.

Two Bonus Resources!

First, the William + Flora Hewlett Foundation. It’s critical to highlight the foundation: in 2002, they provided some of the first support for OER and committed to the goal of creating an “ecosystem of OER groups.” Second, the myriad protocols created by National School Reform Faculty. Need a protocol for a discussion of student work? For team building? Feedback? They have everything.

We’ve never had access to as many high quality resources as we do now. Yet, cautionary note, it’s a boon and a burden. Myriad resources are hard to keep up with, read and digest, and, most of all, apply to our work. The likelihood of our doing so seems especially unlikely when it’s a solo and self-motivated endeavor by people who are already running to manage daily life.

Yet, the challenge is more than time or intrinsic motivation. As Katherine Casey states in “Moving Toward Mastery: Growing, Developing and Sustaining Educators for Competency-Based Education:

"Education is human-centered and human-driven. Its purpose is to support and shape young people as they grow, and to move our nation closer to our social ideals of equity and opportunity….Any conversation about improvement and innovation in education must, therefore, focus on people: what we are asking them to believe, what we are asking them to do and how we will support them."

So, how can you not only grow your professional learning resources with what’s here, but also determine and secure the complementary human resources and collaboration that lead to robust student learning? And, how can we make this endeavor both affordable and powerful in its influence on student learning?

At GOA, we’re designing and sharing free and high-quality material, as well. Download our Five Design Elements for Rethinking School: A Toolkit for Educators. What open educational resources are you using? Let us know your recommendations on Twitter or Contact Us.

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