90716 Global Digital Curriculum Access With Effective Application

Competency learning funding to complement seat time system;

Data driven reporting and decision support;

Broadband use by everyone;

Teacher transformation for the digital age;

Effective application of digital curriculum

Books, lectures, chalkboards, paper and pencils are curriculum delivery and engagement tools upon which every current teacher has received 13 years of intensive training –before they even got to college. Our current precollege teachers are less interested in books and more attuned to the tools of games, visual and audio entertainment and computer keyboards.

Three new types of curricula are converging as legacy education transforms to a hybrid model. Most text books now have a supplementary disc in the back flap and their web address as additional materials. Online education providers have portals and web sites where students enter a virtual learning environment to engage the curriculum. Independent eLearning curriculum providers design, develop and market their products to schools to use in computer labs and classrooms. These offerings may be full semester courses, enrichment components such as virtual tours and laboratories, or supplementary lessons that enhance learning such as math, history or writing lessons that drill, practice and provide automated formative assessment based coaching.

The adoption of digital curriculum has two major problems. Most students have computer interfaces at home but very little access during school hours. Computers are typically accessible a couple of hours a week in a computer lab. There may be a few in the back of the classroom. There are only a few schools in Arizona where the student has unlimited access to digital curriculum. The second is that even if teachers are educated and trained in the effective use of digital curriculum there is little information and knowledge available to support selection of the most effective digital curriculum. Each learning situation has a unique set of parameters: environment, subject, teacher, and student. The difficulty is matching the learning need with are many thousands of offerings both free and purchased.

Take a typical course such as first semester freshman algebra. Let’s assume all state, federal, and school standards for content are the same (they are not). The many hundreds of digital curriculum offerings range from supplementary to full coverage. They may be delivered via a virtual school, web portal, state network, school/district network, computer lab and/or a G3 cell phone. They may or may not engage the teacher, provide lecture components, guide with real time formative assessment, have collaborative/competitive aspects, lay out a path for exploratory learning and engage with drill and practice. They may be mostly based or rich with effective graphics and simulations. Some are computerization of legacy education processes. Others are based on eLearning research with extensive instructional design. These require an investment in the range of $500,000 to $1,000,000 for a full semester course. Some K-12 courses such as reading, science, and math have a large number of offerings. Other K-12 courses, especially electives have many fewer. After being on review committees for K-12 digital curriculum adoption, I can tell you there really are the good, the bad and the ugly.

As Arizona implements its adoption of eLearning over the next 10 years, educators needs to have a continually increasing knowledge of current and emerging digital curriculum. The Arizona Technology Council’s P-20 committee has spent a year developing an access list that addresses Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) offerings. This volunteer effort has opened a window to the potential for much more comprehensive effort.

What is needed is an Arizona Department of Education sponsored and guided Digital Curriculum Institute. This institute would be charged with finding, researching and assessing the universe of digital curriculum offerings that could be used by the over 150 different courses offered by Arizona schools. This institute would be staffed with digital curriculum experts to building a data base and web portal to house the information on their findings and knowledge based on their assessments. They would provide both studies and expert advice to state and district leadership on digital curriculum policy decisions. Based on the model of the US Dept. of Agriculture extension service, expert agents will be attached to the institute to support decisions in the districts, schools and classrooms.

This institute needs to be founded now so it will be in full operation in two years when the build up eLearning in Arizona schools will be hitting its stride.

  1. Design, fund and implement a “Digital Curriculum Institute” that will find and assess all digital curricula accessible to Arizona K-12 education, and operate a service to support digital curriculum acquisition and use from the State level to the classroom. This independent non-profit institute will collaborate with the Arizona Department of Education, universities, colleges, and districts.

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