Friday, October 28, 2011

Digital Resources vs. Textbooks - With Adoption of the Common Core It's Getting Easier!

Forty-eight states are adopting the new Common Core education standards and educators will need to find curriculum resources to implement them. With so many states focused on the same standards, common curriculum is being developed across the country. Several California bills are being passed to keep the implementation process moving, according to John Festerwald of the Silicon Valley Education Foundation. The development of 21st century assessments is underway by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and they will be released in the 2014-15 school year, a year earlier than the curriculum frameworks and state sponsored textbook selection.

While full implementation of the standards is a few years out, many California districts are adopting the standards and developing curriculum already, preparing for pilot implementation in the 2013-2014 school year. This is a good thing. So do we still need a textbook adoption process?

In Seattle, there is a revolt against textbooks, led by state representative Reuven Carlyle, because of the immense amount of money ($64 million per year) spent on new texts, while still leaving many outdated versions in students' hands or in warehouses, still shrink-wrapped. He proposes that educators move to digital learning resources, which are more current, engaging, and very often, free! But many oppose this approach, preferring to continue the tradition of loading student backpacks with heavy textbooks - where the content is more tangible.

Implementing digital learning requires a fundamental shift in belief for traditional-thinking teachers, administrators, school boards, and politicians. As Geoff Fletcher describes in his article, ""Driving Digital Change." Sometimes, change is accelerated by conditions and forces making it urgent. In this case, according to Fletcher, the move to digital learning is being driven by a sharp decrease in available funds, a need for efficiency in making content available to students, and thirdly, an opportunity to leverage the wide availability of engaging technology.

In California, Governor Schwarzenegger implemented the Digital Textbook Initiative to allow online Open Education Resources (OER) to be used to teach secondary science. The initiative has now expanded to include math, history, language arts, and even physical education. The California Learning Resource Network is a rich marketplace for teachers and curriculum planners to locate California Department of Education approved content, including digital textbooks, online courses, videos, and assessments.

Smart districts already have teams of teachers developing digital 21st century curriculum materials based on the Common Core and combining them with powerful learning approaches such as interdisciplinary studies and project-based learning. The students in these districts should do very well on the new assessments when they are launched. But more importantly they will be college and career ready for the 21st century, possessing skills and knowledge that go way beyond what a standardized test can measure!

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