PreK-12 OER in Practice

Two years ago, the U.S. Department of Education launched #GoOpen, a national movement to support states, school districts, and educators transitioning to the use of OER in place of traditional instructional materials. Today, over 100 PreK-12 districts have committed to use OER to increase equity, keep content relevant, empower teachers, and reallocate funds. Together they form a network sharing insights, strategies, and content. Learn from key district leaders as they highlight their process to put OER in practice.

January Open Perspective

Reinvestment in Teachers

How has OER impacted professional learning or student learning?

OER has really helped us to focus and individualize our professional learning for our teachers. It has allowed us to connect our prior focus on student-centered curriculum design using the Understanding by Design framework to student-centered resource design using our Open Educational Resource modules.  By connecting our resource collection with definitive student learning goals aligned to the standards, we were able to shift our teachers focus from ‘content’ first to more of a ‘skills’ focus in terms of long term transfer and assessment.

OER has also been a nice bridge for our students, in that we are moving towards more blended and online learning. The use of OER within our content management system (Google Apps for Education) and Learning Management System (Schoology) is providing the opportunity for students (and teachers) to get comfortable with interacting with digital content for learning. Our student feedback has been very positive so far.

How has your approach to OER evolved?

When we first began the process, we thought OER was nothing more than searching Google for a bunch of primary source documents and PDFs. We quickly realized that the process of curation helped us to focus on student-centered curriculum and resource design. We discussed the intricacies of copyright and licensing, which helped us curate and create resources in a focused, purposeful, and concise collection.

In our work, we have discovered the importance of involving more teachers early on in the process so everyone knows the how, why, and what of OER. Initially, our training was just for the team of curriculum writers and OER developers who then went back to work with their grade level colleagues. It became evident that all teachers needed the background information to increase comfort levels with this new process and improve their readiness for collaborative meetings. The awareness piece is really important.

We are continuing to discover new things at each juncture. Currently, we are developing better ‘tools’ to use that include rubrics for vetting individual resources, as well as the courses themselves.  

What do you value most about OER?

I value the reinvestment in our teachers. Garnet Valley believes the following about our teachers:

  • We believe in investing in our teachers because we know they are the best resource we have to maximize our students’ potential.
  • We believe in giving our teachers full ownership of what they teach, as well as a chance to personalize curriculum.
  • We believe in providing our teachers with the training and support they need to be up to date and successful.
  • We believe in replacing traditional textbooks with Open Educational Resources.

When we looked closely at our management of systems around curriculum, instruction, and assessment, we realized our systems did not support our beliefs. Previously, our practice involved spending approximately 70% of our funds on resources from publishing companies, and only 30% within the district. That 70% was paying companies who did not know our students, staff, or community and very little was focused on professional learning around shared, collaborative, and innovative practices. Additionally, teachers would only use two to three chapters from the textbooks that we purchased. Logically, it did not make sense to continue with practices like this. We made changes to reflect our beliefs and reinvest in our teachers.

What do you wish people understood about OER?

I wish people understood that if done well, and integrated into current curriculum and instructional design systems, OER can help teachers connect the dots and shift their focus from resources to the skills that their students need. It is helping us make concrete, student-centered design tied to skills. Additionally, OER allows for a district to invest in its teachers by giving them time and support for focused, meaningful collaboration.  


Anthony Gabriele is currently the Supervisor of Learning, Development & Professional Growth for the Garnet Valley School District, as well as senior adjunct faculty with the University of Pennsylvania’s Penn Literacy Network. Throughout his career, Anthony has worked as a 7-12 English Language Arts teacher and a K-12 instructional staff developer, with a specific focus on integrating literacy, technology and curriculum. Anthony also worked with the Pennsylvania Department of Education to build PA Core aligned instructional frameworks and assessments and, in partnership with Apple, iTunes University Open Education courses to support educators in their work with the PA Core standards. Currently, Anthony is the district lead on working with the U.S. Department of Education on the #GoOpen movement. Most recently, Anthony was awarded Learning Forward PA’s Best Practices in the Area of Professional Learning in the State of PA Award Winner. He also writes (occasionally) on his blog