Digital content leader shares plans for managing Washington’s education resources

The explosive growth of open educational resources (OER) and other digital content has fueled demand for states to help school districts asses what’s available for teachers and how to find it.

That’s the job of Barbara Soots, OER and instructional materials program manager for the Washington state Office of Superintendent of Pubic Instruction.

“Yes it can be overwhelming at times,” Soots says in an interview with EdScoop, conducted during the recent State Education Technology Directors Association annual leadership summit .

“So our stand has been to let school districts know there’s a large new ecosystem of material that includes print and digital resources, materials that are openly licensed and that carry all rights reserved copyright only,” she says.

But regardless of the nature of the materials, or the platforms they’re delivered on, her office also strives to help instructors understand that “the standard of quality should be the same and aligned with state learning standards.”

To accomplish that, her office has been reaching out to districts, “helping them understand there are rubrics out there, point them in the direction of some recognized OER repositories, and we’ve done a substantial amount of review of open resources as well,” she says.

That’s involved pulling together teachers together from across the state over the past three years to review materials and post results, she says. Her office also works with other states, as part of the larger #GoOpen initiative , launched by the Department of Education in October 2015 that aims to help teachers craft and share their own instructional materials.

“So if districts can’t find the exact resource they’re looking, they can at least find developers that are working in that space, that they might want to check,” she says.

Soots says one of the important messages that she and her peers heard at the SETDA summit was the “reiteration of the idea that you need to pull together a team of folks to look at these resources — that includes educational technology as well as curriculum experts, teacher-librarians, who are experts in the curation of content, and administrators — it’s important to remember that we need all of those different lenses in looking at instructional materials.”

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