The curricula at Manitou Springs School District is defined by Essential Learnings. These Essential Learnings (ELs) represent what students are expected to know and be able to do in each curricular area.
Through the review of research on content, instruction, and assessment and the analysis of state and national standards, staff determine core sets of Essential Learnings for each grade level and course.
Moving these essential learnings off the shelf and into the foreground of lesson planning and assessment development may prove to be the greatest hurdle districts encounter. There are several companies designed to aid schools in their storage and tracking of ELs and we spent quite a bit of time examing the pros and cons of these organizations. Additionally, we met with other area districts who use these companies to house their ELs and determined that most were not using the services to their fullest potential for a variety of reasons. I suspect these reasons related to the large learning curve required to become fluent in the applications. These companies charged a large amount of money for their products while state funding for public education was decreasing.
So, we were faced with a decision, spend a large sum of money for a program that housed ELs and wasn't very user friendly or try to find an alternative. Though any application can be learned, the amount of staff development necessary to bring competency levels to the proficiency status also became a factor in choosing to move to Wikispaces as a platform for our Essential Learnings.
Wikispaces is fairly easy to learn and navigate. A Wikispace easily funcitions as a housing unit for information and essential learnings are no exception. However, it was the additional functionality of Wikispaces that sold us on using Wikispaces as the platform for our Essential Learnings. Through Wikispace training we're finally realizing the potential and value of having EL's easily accessible and searchable. In addition, the training has exposed teachers to the powerful and collaborative environment of Web 2.0. Suddenly, we're seeing a surge of interest in using and integrating technology in the classroom. Little by little, our essential learnings are becoming viable documents used in the classroom on a daily basis thanks to the creation of our Wikispace.