When the superintendent of Williamsfield Public Schools needed to update the textbooks for the 300 students in his rural school district, he decided instead to do away with textbooks, invest in laptops, and start using open educational resources (OER), a set of free materials that could be tailored to meet students’ needs.
The students were enthusiastic about digital learning, and the district continued to innovate. Today, high school students are creating prototypes of solutions to agriculture challenges by learning how to use an $80,000 precision Computer Numeric Control tool – which helps them gain valuable engineering skills. Other students are leveraging distance learning to take community college courses online; not having to travel 35 miles to the nearest college campus saves students both time and money. “The money we save on transportation and textbooks, the district is now investing into the kids themselves,” says the superintendent. This means Williamsfield’s graduates can leave with associate degrees as well as high school diplomas.
Technology is also helping with teacher recruitment. When the district had three teacher openings, it received many more applications than expected, partly because of the district’s approach to technology. In fact, some teachers had multiple job offers but chose Williamsfield because of the digital learning opportunities available to students there.