Maranacook teachers create digital learning materials

Teachers across Maine will soon have access to digital resources full of interactive content that will help them bring middle school social studies and visual and performing arts lessons alive for students, regardless of their preferred learning styles.

The open educational resources will be available to teachers across the state thanks to the work of teachers at Maranacook Community Middle School in Readfield.

Instructors there began scouring online materials this winter for open educational resources aligned with Maine’s Learning Results for seventh-grade social studies and eighth-grade visual and performing arts. The teachers also contributed original content they had developed for their classes.

Open educational resources are digital teaching and learning materials that are freely available and adaptable to whomever wants to use them. Open educational resources carry an open license, often a Creative Commons license, that allows for reuse, remixing and republishing of the material.

“We are going out and finding (open educational resources) throughout the world that match the needed content,” said Therese Bernier Burns, who is working with the Maranacook teachers as the project manager. “It might be a video, it might be a story, it might be a project, it might be a piece of art.”

Much of the content has come from universities, museums and other reputable institutions, Burns said.

The result will be a continuously evolving collection of open educational resources available to all Maine teachers through a digital platform developed by the Boston company AcrossWorld.

Teachers will be able to use the platform to fashion the academic equivalent of iTunes playlists, customized for each student based on how he or she learns best. One student’s “playlist” might be more text-heavy if he learns best by reading; another student’s playlist could be more reliant on video resources.

“The intent is to find all the content in fully accessible ways to meet the desires and excitements and learning styles of many different kids,” Burns said.

Burns said the Maranacook middle school teachers plan to finish developing these resources by September. They will present their work this summer at the Maine Learning Technology Initiative’s summer conference for educators.

Maranacook Community Middle School, which belongs to Regional School Unit 38, is partnering with Alternative Organizational Structure 97 of Winthrop and Fayette, the Readfield-based non-profit organization Syntiro, the Maine Alliance for Arts Education and AcrossWorld.

The initiative is funded through the Maine Department of Education by federal Title IID funds that support technology-based educational improvements.

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