Anyone who has ever had to pay for academic textbooks knows they can be pricey, sometimes prohibitively so. This is true not only at the university level, but also for K-12 schools and districts, especially those in rural areas. For Idaho, nearly 90% of districts are rural.
In 2018, Associate Professor of Spanish, Kelly Arispe was working with Idaho educators and realized that when districts were unable to afford textbook licenses, teachers were no longer getting access to the quality curricula for their students. This meant that students were not gaining the levels of proficiency needed and the burden for finding new materials fell on teachers.
Fortunately, Boise State researchers across campus work to create Open Educational Resources, more familiar as OER, that supplement, and can even replace expensive, traditional textbooks. One project called The Pathways Project, led by Arispe and Co-director Amber Hoye, works with faculty, K-12 teachers, and 72 interdisciplinary Boise State students to create a repository that is currently home to more than 700 high-quality, editable digital materials for 10 world languages and cultures.
Now, with a $100k two-year grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Arispe and her team of researchers are taking the next step forward in their OER mission. Arispe, Hoye, and Associate Professor Carl Siebert will work with three user groups of rural and urban teachers from across Idaho to give them the training and confidence to both use and create OER that integrate a wide array of digital humanities content.
Arispe will work closely with 16 teachers who will receive monthly professional development opportunities, as well as stipends. Arispe and her team will also study the impact of this pedagogy on the educators, to gain insight into use and expansion of OER. The grant will enable the team to work with the 800+ K-12 language teachers already using The Pathways Project repository.
“We feel really committed to the strategic plan of trailblazing programs and partnerships,” Arispe said. “Now, to have funding and a robust program to move this forward is exciting. Teachers will have support and will be able to bring quality material to their students and connect them in digital ways to things that they’ve never seen before.”