The benefits of flexible curriculum

This piece is based on a conversation with Carl Haley, Director of Content at CK12, who took the time to introduce Thriving Schools to the concept of FlexBooks and guided us through the features and tools available on the CK12 site! CK12 can be reached for general inquiries about their student solutions at: (650) 494-1302.

What if you had textbooks designed specifically to meet your school’s needs? What if your textbooks could be delivered in a format that allowed students to access them from anywhere? What if these textbooks were free?

Done, done, and done.

FlexBooks, launched by CK12 in 2008, are open-source textbooks that allow schools to reorder, add to, and edit free modules of content to create textbooks designed specifically for their students. The video below demonstrates how they work:

While most of the FlexBooks on the CK12 site are geared toward middle/high school math and science, there are several pieces of curriculum available for elementary students. In addition, the company has developed several other tools that can help teachers and students master content more quickly, including: online interactives, concept-based learning modules, and adaptive-learning problem sets.

Here’s the easiest way to find a FlexBook:

1) Navigate to: http://www.ck12.org/browse/

2) Click on the subject you’re most interested in browsing

3) Click the “FlexBook Textbooks” tab to the right of “Concepts” tab (on most pages)

So what’s the problem with traditional textbooks?

We probably don’t have to tell you, but there are many! First, it’s rare to find a textbook that is truly aligned to a given state’s standards. In most cases, publishers simply take the content that was developed for the largest states, repackage it, and then market it as meeting another state’s requirements. Next, textbooks get old, damaged, and defaced quickly. Rather than spending time inventorying, tracking down, and replacing old texts, students can now have a copy (including their notes and markups) that they can keep for as long as they like. Lastly, traditional textbooks are unreasonably expensive. Come on, it’s 2017 – we’re overpaying for content that has remained relatively unchanged.

So what are some reasons your school might want to consider switching to FlexBooks?

First, the easy one: they’re free! The result of this is that school resources are now freed up and can be reallocated into other, more important areas. In fact, even if you opt to make printed versions of a FlexBook, your cost is going to be less than $2.00/copy. Next, teachers have just been empowered to “own” their curriculum. Teachers can customize content to fit their pacing and can modify modules to meet student needs. Finally, students can read a FlexBook from anywhere – they can access their materials on their own electronic devices and they no longer need to lug around bulky textbooks to and from school each day. It should be noted that CK12 also made their content platform-neutral so that materials can be accessed on whatever technology your school or your students already have.

Ok, so all of this sounds quite impressive. But how might you actually implement this at your school?

Well, that’s already been done too! Many schools and districts start the process by creating a team of pioneering teachers to modify an existing FlexBook. During this process, teachers work to make sure the text meets state standards and that content is adapted for any additional local needs or requirements. Often, only 10-20% of a CK12 FlexBook needs to be modified. Next, the modified FlexBooks are shared with departments and individual teachers who will be teaching that content. If an administrator wants, they can further encourage individualization of a FlexBook at this level. Finally, the curriculum is rolled out to students!

CK12 also makes it easy to see how other schools around the country have already completed this process. The following link allows you to look through FlexBooks that have been created across the country:

http://www.ck12.org/schools/