In Pennsylvania, OER is a ‘grassroots effort’

Education technology proponents in Pennsylvania, like their counterparts in a handful of other states, have recently been focused on promoting the use of open educational resources (OER) in their school districts.

For edtech directors such as Jared Mader, who is part of the Pennsylvania Association of Intermediate Units, that means working with teachers, curriculum coordinators and content experts to help them make the most of their districts’ one-to-one programs — in particular, using the devices to access openly licensed digital materials.

Mader oversees the education technology initiatives for one of Pennsylvania’s 29 intermediate units, which are regional educational service agencies established by the state legislature that provide online, innovative and technology-rich learning services. Mader’s intermediate unit serves over 100,000 students in 25 school districts, nearly all of which have deployed some variation of a one-to-one program.

“So we’re trying to help them marry that curriculum, the content, the pedagogy, and then [gain] access to resources that are vetted and representative of the standards that we want to hold of our classrooms,” Mader tells EdScoop TV in an interview during the SETDA Leadership Summit in October.

But it’s important to Pennsylvania’s edtech leaders that the shift to OER is not another burden for teachers, Mader says.

“We want to try to make it manageable,” he says. “Right now, there’s so many different mandates and requirements that are placed upon teachers, from data quality and performance monitoring and metrics that they’re supposed to be looking at — and should be looking at — to improve practice [and] to individualize learning outcomes for students based on their needs.”

With this in mind, Mader says he and his colleagues at the PAIU aim not to add responsibilities to teachers and curriculum coordinators in Pennsylvania, but to connect them to other OER communities across the state.

The idea is that each district will build its own OER repository, which will funnel into a regional repository, which will then funnel into the statewide repository.

“It really is a grassroots effort,” he says. “It’s not a top-down [situation], where we have to submit resources to the state level or the intermediate unit level to be approved. … Instead, it starts at the district level where teachers, who are the best evaluators of the content that they’re utilizing in the classroom, can begin that process.”

As they continue to make progress around OER, Mader and his team are also focused on other initiatives, like expanding computer science and STEM education.