This week Utah announced a major initiative to use open textbooks in K-12, thanks to the efforts of Dr. David Wiley.
This move is significant for a number of reasons.
- It saves money.
This isn’t trivial in these times of budget crisis and cutbacks. Less money spent on instructional materials can mean more money spent on teachers.
Utah’s pilot program has demonstrated the cost savings possible from the use of open textbooks.
- Technology is optional.
Utah’s pilot was based on printed textbooks. You don’t have to have one-to-one, or any technology for that matter, to realize the type of gains they’ve demonstrated. Of course, if you take high quality materials and expand their interactivity with technology, you’ll probably see even better results.
- Learning outcomes are not adversely affected and could be improved.
Utah’s pilot program showed that simply substituting open textbooks for proprietary ones did not impact learning outcomes. Of course, many of us believe that giving teachers a greater ability to remix content to differentiate instruction can significantly improve instruction. Bottom line, though, it’s more about the teacher and the learning environment than the instructional materials.
- State endorsement means a lot.
There are many barriers to innovative instructional materials adoption. Bureaucratic procurement processes is one. Fear of trying anything different in these days of accountability is another. Utah bypassed a lot of this by not only supporting this project but by actively endorsing it, “encourag[ing] districts and schools throughout the state to consider adopting these textbooks for use beginning this fall.” Kudos to the state and all those who made this happen.
It’s time for more states to become active in encouraging the use of open textbooks and other open educational resources. It’s good for schools; it’s good for teachers; it’s good for kids; and it’s good for the public. Open licensing is a wise use of public funds.