Digital Learning Models

We’d like to send a big thank you to for giving us a chance to share some of the ideas that make our Beyond Textbooks program tick.

It is wonderful to get a chance to share what we are doing and why we are doing it. Here is an excerpt:

What would you categorize as the three biggest advantages to moving away from textbooks and replacing that tradition with a digital learning model?

* Instant updates. Our superintendent, Calvin Baker, proudly sent out an email message to the school board when Pluto was demoted. In the message he said, we are one of the only districts in the country who’s textbooks are not obsolete.

* Collaboration. At this phase the primary collaboration is happening between teachers but as the tools become more familiar students will be working with each other, their teachers, and the community more and more.

* Costs. While the technology that enables digital learning still costs slightly more than a set of textbooks, it can do so much more. A digital device provides access to content and gives students a platform to create, share, and work.

Do you share the view that the digital world will be the real driver of educational innovations moving forward (as opposed to the concept of vouchers and charter schools)? Why or why not?

iStock_000007128193XSmallI’m sure that I see technology as an alternative to these on-going debates. What I’ve learned is that technology is an accelerant. If you use it on a system that isn’t very good it just allows you to do a bad job faster and more efficiently. I believe that technology should be used to accelerate things that are already working well. For example portfolio assessment is great, unless you’re the teacher trying to keep it all organized. Take that content and put it on a blog server and you’ve not only got an organized structure built into the system but a way to add pictures, videos, and audio to the portfolio.

The same can be said of digital instruction. If the instruction/pedagogy is poor then you are just being better at teaching badly. However, if the instruction is about understanding and connecting then technology can enable and accelerate that process by orders of magnitude.

While everyone has some sense of what is meant by a digital textbook, can you explain to readers the fundamental differences between a traditional book format and a digital text? And can you explain what is meant by a flexbook?

I’m not familiar with flex books. Alternatively, we aren’t even using a true digital text. Our teachers are connecting and/or creating their own content to meet the learning needs of their students. In my opinion, the major differences between a traditional text and digital text are:

* It is easier to copy/distribute digital texts. There are virtually no transactional costs beyond appropriate copyright compensation.

* Digital texts can be living documents with video and sounds plus hyperlinks to outside supporting materials.

* Digital texts can be more easily appended and modified either by students taking notes or teachers choosing exactly the right resource for a given lesson.

It seems that folks today have begun truly questioning the concept of a textbook, that such a resource is finite and linear yet real learning is infinite and multi-pronged. Are today’s tech-savvy kids the driving force behind the digital move or are educators finally seeing the light?

For me it is about economics. The simple fact is that it will soon be cheaper to buy a device that can be used to access digital content freely available on the web than it will be to purchase a set of textbooks. This fact has driven our Beyond Textbooks program. We want to be ready to fully embrace this dream.

Beyond TextbooksWe are going about it in two ways. The first is identifying subscription resources that meet our instructional needs and begin categorizing them so that they are more accessible to teachers and students. The second is to begin creating the instructional resources that will be needed to teach with these devices. That means Moodle courses, portfolio blogs, wiki projects, etc…”

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Professional Development

In order to assist with the successful implementation of Beyond Textbooks, a variety of ongoing and consistent professional development offerings are available to best meet the needs of an organization.

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Connecting with Peers

One of the most powerful components of the Beyond Textbook program is the web-based tool for sharing. By harnessing the power of the Internet, it is now as easy to share a lesson with your co-teacher across the hall or a peer across the state.

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Save Time and Money

Beyond Textbooks provides educators access to a plethora of digital materials that are cataloged to specific standards. This creates a greater efficiency and savings of time for teachers in their search for quality resources and allows for a decrease in textbook costs.

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