Navigating the Shift to OER

Navigating the Digital Shift edWebinar recording link


During a tour of updates to SETDA’s  Digital Instructional Materials Acquisition Policies for States (DMAPS), which showcases state policies in support of digital materials, Christine Fox, Deputy Executive Director for SETDA, discussed new features like professional development information. In addition, Dr. Michael Nelson, Director of Curriculum and Assessments for Coeur d’Alene Public Schools (ID), explained in the presentation, Navigating the Digital Shift: Leveraging Quality Instructional Materials for Learning,” how his schools are shifting to an OER (open educational resources) environment as part of their overall plan to improve individual student achievement.

Keys to the OER shift:

– Community buy-in: The community wasn’t satisfied with the achievement levels and graduation rates. Their support for the new initiative meant that leadership could investigate methods beyond the traditional classroom.

– Embracing a new teaching philosophy: Instead of what Nelson termed “spray and pray” where all students receive similar instruction and the teachers hope it sticks to most of them, the district leaders decided to purposefully embed collaboration into every school day. In addition, while they educators are still responsible for helping students reach state standards and community growth expectations, one-third of lesson time is spent on items not on the state standards. This allows students to delve deeper into concepts and their individual interests.

– Vetted OER materials: For every subject, K-12 teachers have a stockbook of vetted OER lessons. While they can add to the book, every year the entire book is reevaluated by an ad hoc advisory board, which includes educators and community members. For instance, when looking at earth science resources, members of the Fish and Wildlife administration may be a part of the committee. Nelson estimates that the books would be over 600 pages long if printed out; the variety and scope of lessons allow teachers to differentiate for individual students’ needs.

Navigating the Digital Shift edWebinar image


– K-12 learning goals: Content is addressed across K-12 so that the lessons in kindergarten help work towards proficiency and learning goals for 12th grade.

– Unique pathways for all students: Instead of just exceptional students or students who require an IEP, all students in the district have a distinct plan for their learning goals.

– Personalized, not specialized materials: Because all students have their own learning plan, the teachers look for resources that fit those goals and don’t focus on if the materials are for special needs students, gifted students, etc.

– Regular check-ins: Finally, besides evaluating the stockbooks, there are frequent check-ins with the students to make sure they are on target to reach state standards and to meet their individual plan goals.

Overall, the key, says Nelson, is the teachers who find, vet, and organize the stockbooks for each subject. “We’ve developed our own (coursework) … philosophically, we would rather pay our teachers for the content that they have, the content that they’ve developed in their own professional learning than … pay for publishers,” commented Nelson. “That’s not a slight to publishing in general, but I think we’ve created a culture whereby our content teachers really need to feel valued. And the way that we value them is by engaging them in the process of teaching and learning.”

This edWeb webinar was hosted by SETDA and sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

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This article was modified and published by EdScoop.

About the Presenters

Christine Fox is the deputy executive director for SETDA. As Deputy Executive Director, she collaborates with the executive director in charting strategic direction, administration, planning and financial decisions involving SETDA. She also facilitates the members’ professional learning opportunities including planning and implementing the content for SETDA’s virtual and in-person events and newsletters. In addition, she manages many of SETDA’s research and product development projects from conception to publication. The management of such projects includes coordinating data collection from all states, supervising consultants and staff, ensuring member input and supervising the publishing process. Recent publications and projects include Navigating the Digital Shift, Digital Instructional Materials Acquisition Policies for States, OER Case Studies: Implementation in Action, The Broadband Imperative and From Data to Information. Christine’s background includes experience in education and consulting. She has worked as an educational consultant and curriculum developer for a national whole school reform model, ESOL coordinator and 3rd grade teacher. Christine has a Masters of Science in teaching English as a second language from Florida International University and received her bachelor’s degree in English literature from Florida State University.

A graduate of Coeur d’Alene Public Schools, Dr. Mike Nelson works with district educators to provide current and relevant teaching materials and verifies that students are working to meet or exceed district and state standards. Idaho’s Milken National Educator from 2005, Mike is also responsible for the district’s assessment program, curriculum-related professional development, and works with our Technology and Special Education departments to ensure student engagement. He holds six degrees from the University of Idaho in Spanish, broadcast journalism, curriculum, technology, administration and holds a doctorate of philosophy in educational leadership.

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Essential Elements for Digital Content is a free professional learning community on that provides policy makers, school administrators and educator leaders a better understanding of policies and practices related to digital instructional materials.


setdaThe State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit membership association launched by state education agency leaders in 2001 to serve, support and represent their emerging interests and needs with respect to the use of technology for teaching, learning, and school operations. Our current work is guided by a strategic plan, Leading, Inspiring and Empowering: The 2013-16 SETDA Strategic Plan, adopted by the SETDA Board of Directors in October 2012 after extensive consultation with the membership. The SETDA mission is to build and increase the capacity of state and national leaders to improve education through technology policy and practice.

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