Teachers as Authors of Curriculum

This post is written by guest blogger Blake Haygood, eTextbook Curriculum Specialist in New Braunfels ISD.

Textbooks have always been expensive, and you would think that going digital would help lower the cost. The truth is, however, that the cost continues to rise. Not only that, but nowadays a district has to re-up every adoption cycle to pay for the same resources – resources that they would have been able to have forever in a paper-textbook world. If you don’t repay, you lose your license. So our district started questioning the structure behind this system.

They asked questions like, “Do we even use this book?” and “Who is writing these books?” and “We planned to save money by becoming a 1-to-1 district, so why do we have to keep throwing money at this publisher?”  The answers helped us find our way:

  • Teachers were picking and choosing the best parts of their books. Not a single teacher taught from their book (which is good). We came to the conclusion that we could do better!
  • Instead of their handpicked teachers authoring books, our best teachers would write the books.
  • Instead of using their platform to get the book to kids, we’d use ours (mostly iTunes U, iBooks, Google Classroom, and Google Drive). With the money we’d save, we’d be able to buy a host of apps and supplementary materials – with quite a bit left over to pay for teachers to create materials if it came to that!

That’s how I found myself in New Braunfels. My official title is eTextbook Curriculum Specialist, and my job is to sit down with other Curriculum Specialists and teacher volunteers – grade by grade, subject by subject – to hash out how they would like their curriculum paced, stored, shared, presented, graded, and improved. We started this process with Elementary Social Studies, and are now breaking out to all grades and subjects.

Let’s take this step-by-step, starting with the pacing… Most of our teachers already had a pacing calendar, but we weren’t afraid to make changes. We took into account what other subjects were doing at similar times, and balanced and blended curriculum as much as we could, adding extension activities for Reading, Writing, Math, Science, Art, Music, Theatre and Technology. The goal is to eventually have a single curriculum that blends all subjects as efficiently as possible.

Once the calendar was in place, teachers started to drop assignments that they’d created into shared and highly organized Google Drive Folders.

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Teachers then came in to collaborate on the creation of their curriculum. In the beginning, we offered to pay teachers for creating materials, but they found it much more fulfilling to come in to our Ed. Center and work as a team (something that is rare and valuable nowadays). Creation, storing, and sharing of the curriculum took about a year for K-5 SS. This process, however, will never be completely finished because there will always be necessary improvements and modifications of the curriculum due to the static nature of our TEKS.

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Teachers may now use iTunes U or Google Classrooms to share readings, videos, assignments, assessments, etc. with their students. All of the TEKS are covered therein. This really makes what we made in this initial phase, by the Texas Education Agency’s definition, a ‘textbook’ unto itself – just not in the traditional sense.

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Now, many of those teachers who worked to create curriculum are coming back in groups of two-per-grade-level to create focused iBooks in high-need areas. Here are some examples of their work:

Four Chaplains – 3rd Grade SS TEKS:

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US Constitution – Kinder SS TEKS:

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José Antonio Navarro – 2nd Grade SS TEKS:

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The other subjects/grade levels should follow suit shortly. The remainder of Elementary will be easier now that we have an established process. Secondary will take a little more time because of smaller, more specialized groups, but it all starts with gathering materials in one place (which, thanks to iTunes U, is already happening).


 

The work Mr. Haygood is leading in his district exemplifies the premise within Article II: The New Learning Standards of The Visioning Document that calls for curricular tools to support educators (based on the necessary professional development and professional collaboration related to the successful implementation).

II. g Content standards should serve as frameworks that assist teachers and students in creating learning experiences that motivate student success.

By taking this risk to develop content by educators for learners, New Braunfels ISD can certainly be described by the phrase in the opening pages of the Visioning Document: Transformed Systems for Making the Vision Reality.  One descriptor specifically relates to this work:

Districts that recruit, induct, and promote teachers who love learning and kids, relish the conditions in which they teach, work collaboratively, and see themselves as designers and leaders, along with their traditional roles as planners, presenters, and performers.

To keep up with the latest happening in New Braunfels ISD, check out their website: http://www.nbisd.org/.

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