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Each year public schools spend millions of dollars on copyright-protected textbooks. Districts do this even though we now live in a digitally dominated world full of open-sourced books. But there’s an alternative.

The movement of using Open Educational Resources (OER) has been growing over the past five years. 

In 2017 Class Dismissed interviewed Cable Green, the director of Open Education with Creative Commons. Green made a compelling argument for OER, but we wanted to learn more. For instance, what is it like to be on the front lines of a school-wide OER roll out? 

How much more work does it take? Are Open Education Resources better than traditional textbooks? Have there been advantages to using OER during the COVID-19 pandemic?

In Episode 176, we caught up with Dan McDowell, the director of learning and innovation of the Grossmont Union High school district in San Diego County, Califonia.

McDowell and his colleagues have been gradually transferring their curriculum to OER over the past five years.

The journey to an OER district

McDowell will admit that transitioning to OER has been challenging, but there are also many benefits. “It takes a lot of time and work to develop these resources,” McDowell says. 

The Grossmont Union High Schoo District pays teachers extra to help gather and vet the OER materials and then develop the instructional materials around them. They set up committees and which in turn discover what’s out there. 

McDowell references a great website called CK12 that has opened licensed textbooks on it. He says they then modify and add supplemental resources like videos and additional readings to those existing resources. 

McDowell says all of their science course are now using this OER format, so they no longer provide textbooks for their main science classes. They’re also making good progress on Social Science and ninth and tenth grade English.

“This isn’t like a change everything sort of thing,” says McDowell. “It’s a see where it fits and see where we get the most bang for our buck.” 

In our full conversation with Dan McDowell, you’ll learn… 

  • What OER looks like for the student. 
  • If OER is a useful resource during virtual learning. 
  • If McDowell has any regrets about making the transition.
  • Why buy-in from the teachers is critical.

You can also see all of the Grossmont Union High Schoo District OER projects on their website. 

In Episode 176 of Class Dismissed we talk in-depth with Whiting about how to help students become media literate by identifying native advertising, influencers, and media bias. To learn more listen to Class Dismissed Podcast on iTunes or your favorite podcasting app.

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