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California Charters Open Curriculum Platform to Other Schools

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By guest blogger Erik Robelen

A pair of California-based charter school networks are making their curricular materials freely available online through a new platform that will allow teachers anywhere to browse, rate, and share the instructional resources, according to a press release issued today.

The current content on the open platform, called Activate Instruction, has primarily been built and published by Summit Public Schools in the San Francisco Bay Area and High Tech High in San Diego, two charter networks that have drawn national attention for their schools. The new initiative is supported by the Girard Education Foundation.

The site is described as "essentially a curricular Wikipedia" by Girard President Michele Hansen in the press release, who says it will provide teachers with a professional community where they can "easily find and share high-quality lessons."

Teachers anywhere will be able to "browse, search, rate, add, share, and organize" their favorite materials and to assemble personalized "playlists" for students, the press release says.

The announcement comes at a time when the availability of such open educational resources is growing rapidly. As my colleague Sean Cavanagh explained in a recent Education Week story, such resources are being developed or supported by nonprofit groups, universities, philanthropies, individual teachers, and entire states (such as Utah, where I recently wrote about an initiative to develop e-textbooks for the common core). Such OER resources come in many forms, but generally are defined as free resources that can be revised and redistributed by teachers and other users to meet specific needs.

The two California schools' announcement also shares some similarities with plans announced recently by another charter school operator based in the state, Aspire Public Schools. Aspire officials said that they plan to turn a data toolset they developed, Schoolzilla, which has been made available to some districts for free, into a commercial enterprise, with the goal of expanding its use across the country.

The new Activate Instruction platform currently provides materials at grades 6-12 across subject areas, but eventually will expand to K-12. The press release also bills some of those as being "common-core aligned," though I'll leave it to others to judge that.

A fact sheet identifies a dozen charter school networks and school districts that are planning to use the platform this fall, including the North Monterey County Unified district in California, Intrinsic Schools in Chicago, and KIPP schools around the country.

Two other partners in the initiative are Illuminate Education Inc. and the Alvo Institute.

Originally posted on the Curriculum Matters blog.

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