Illinois Goes Open

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By Delisa Morris

How could Open Educational Resources (OER) help all teachers across Illinois improve their classrooms? It all came down to the resources for the state's core #GoOpen team. 

The U.S. Department of Education's Office of Educational Technology (Ed. Tech) on June 27 announced Illinois as the 15th #GoOpen state. As a #GoOpen state, Illinois is working with other #GoOpen states to share high quality resources that will have a powerful and lasting impact on instructional materials.

Before becoming a #GoOpen state, Illinois already had strong ties to the #GoOpen movement with an ambassador district in Williamsfield, Illinois and a few other launch districts throughout the state. 

"Openly licensed educational resources will help our schools broaden access to high-quality learning experiences. By Illinois becoming a #GoOpen state, more teachers and administrators will be able to implement and transition to these cost-effective, content relevant resources" noted Illinois Secretary of Education Beth Purvis.

The state is providing OER which supports the ability for teachers and districts to #GoOpen. Before Illinois became involved with OER, the state had a deficiency of resources. This deficiency led to #GoOpen being the right initiative at the right time for Illinois.

Mary Reynolds, director of Community Partnerships and Secondary Transformation for the Illinois State Board of Education‚Äč, boasted about how Illinois' state leadership was very supportive of Illinois becoming a #GoOpen state.  

Reynolds, Jeanne Kitchens, associate director at the Center for Workforce Development at Southern Illinois University, and Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) Information Technology Division Administrator Brent Engelman are the core #GoOpen team in Illinois.

"State Superintendent of Education Tony Smith and the Secretary of Education Beth Purvis are both very supportive of providing resources to districts and teachers and putting tools in their hands. Again it was just an alignment of those things that caused us to take the official step" Reynolds said. 

Illinois is working on a teacher-level dashboard, Ed360, to help get OER into the classroom along with student data and formative assessments.

"It was [through] multiple parallel tracks that #GoOpen came to us...I heard about it through Education Super Highway...there were multiple arrows all pointed at the same place," noted Reynolds.

After attending several #GoOpen events, Reynolds saw there was an opportunity for the Illinois State Board of Education to jump on by becoming a #GoOpen state. Before officially becoming a #GoOpen state, Illinois was featured and participated in OER poster sessions, workshops, metadata conferences, and roundtable discussions with former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

Illinois' state education leadership is actively engaging with other #GoOpen states in efforts to facilitate open sharing of resources.

Kitchens' current work with the Learning Registry and the Illinois Department of Education's initiatives easily aligned as well. "We've been working all along to develop an open platform for the state of Illinois for the purpose of sharing, open sharing, of educational resources [including the creative commons licenses], so that educators could learn about them and share them freely," said Kitchens.

Since Illinois has three #GoOpen launch districts, the state has been constantly supporting the adoption and use of OER. IOER is the online Illinois state repository of open materials.

Content in the repository includes open, standards-aligned educational and career content. Anyone can access the materials for free, and they are most useful to districts and teachers for sharing, creating, curating and finding high-quality resources for the classroom.

Having #GoOpen districts and having already fulfilled several of the #GoOpen state commitments, Illinois smoothly transitioned to being a #GoOpen state.

"It was a very easy discussion, simply because we already had the components and the commitment to providing those resources to districts. It really was one of simply moving forward and quick decision. [T]he State Superintendent and State Secretary of Education both have publicly talked about Open Educational Resources, so it really was a very easy discussion in terms of that alignment" said Reynolds.

In the future, Illinois is looking forward to expanding and sharing OER and everything it encompasses with other states. Kitchens remarked that mass state sharing of OER is a great opportunity for districts and teachers to develop and discover high-quality resources for the classroom.State sharing of high-quality, vetted and standard aligned resources will lead to student achievement, and reduced redundancy of efforts across the country.


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