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Tennessee is one of 18 states exploring the use of free digital materials to replace textbooks.

Tennessee is one of 18 states exploring the use of free digital materials to replace textbooks.

Kayleigh Skinner

Tennessee joins campaign to #GoOpen with educational resources

Tennessee is joining 18 other states recognized by the U.S. Department of Education for its commitment to offering free online educational resources in schools, Education Commissioner Candice McQueen announced Thursday.

As a #GoOpen state, Tennessee will provide educators with access to a large collection of high-quality digital teaching and professional development resources that easily can be used and shared. Rather than relying on physical textbooks, teachers can mix and match openly licensed materials found online and vetted for accurate, age-appropriate content.

“Tennessee is excited to join the #GoOpen movement to improve learning outcomes for our students by providing educators with high-quality educational resources,” McQueen said in a statement. “Tennessee is committed to personalizing instruction for all students, and the role of digital content through #GoOpen is an important part of our strategy.”

President Barack Obama’s administration touts the #GoOpen movement as a tool for equity, allowing all schools to have high-quality resources regardless of wealth. It’s unclear how the effort will be impacted under the administration of President-elect Donald Trump, who has vowed to cut back on federal education initiatives.

Tennessee is embracing digital content. The State Department of Education recently launched a pilot program making free digital lessons for Algebra I and Integrated Math available to Tennessee educators. And earlier this year, districts in Bristol and Tullahoma were among 12 districts nationwide chosen as #GoOpen ambassadors.

Early reports are good.

The transition from costly textbooks to openly licensed digital materials freed up money for Tullahoma City Schools so that every student has access to a computer or tablet during the day, said Superintendent Dan Lawson. But the best part, he said, is connecting with educators from across the country.

“I can now connect with folks from half a dozen other states whom I would not have known had #GoOpen not existed,” Lawson told Chalkbeat. “In doing so, we’re able to see ideas and hear ideas … and find great resources.”

Bristol Superintendent Gary Lilly says it’s also helpful to have digital resources that are easily updated.

“Not only can we make sure we’ve got up-to-date resources that are aligned to Tennessee standards, which seem to be ever-shifting,” he said, “but we can also continually update according to what’s best for our teachers and students.”