As educators we can decry the adoption of the Common Core standards as a homogenization of education. Or we can take this opportunity to wrest control of our curriculum from the publishing companies. Like a skilled Judo athlete we can use the power and strength of an aggressor (dominating one-size fits all standards created by non-educators) to gain an advantage. How? By working together educators can create materials to teach the common core standards: from instructional resources like textbooks and lecture videos, to formative assessments like adaptive online quizzes and rubrics, to classroom activities and projects, from 15 minute discussion starters to cross curricular, multimedia, student-led investigations of ideas. We write it all collaboratively and we make sure that it teaches the standards, because we know that you can teach the basic concepts on the standards in exciting and engaging ways even if the state only assesses them using a multiple choice test. Then we go to our state departments of education and say, “Thanks but no thanks to your approved textbooks”. The state then takes all of that textbook money and uses it for teacher professional development and student materials (including technology to access the digital curriculum).
So what do we get out of this approach? Free and open learning materials that can be mixed and matched by teachers and schools to best fit their needs, money to get digital tools into kids hands so that they can take advantage in the latest advances in learning-multimedia, interactivity, personalization, and educator control over content in spite of the attempt to teacher-proof education.
Open content already has some nascent beginnings. Now is the time to take it to the next level: The broad adoption of common core standards will give teachers across the US a common set of learning objectives, and the increase in affordable digital devices will allow us to kick the paper habit and the control of the companies with the printing presses. Can we reach a critical mass?