School districts across the nation are in the midst of a challenging digital migration — but they aren’t making the leap alone.
For our latest guide, Leading Your School District’s Digital Transition (download the full guide), Discovery Education asked three experienced superintendents to round up why making the transition from paper textbooks to digital, interactive learning tools makes a difference. Their feedback, spanning the benefits and opportunities that digital initiatives offer, should give anyone on the fence an idea of what they stand to gain by considering a digital alternative in their classrooms.
The advice comes from the minds of Christine Johns, superintendent of Utica Community Schools District in Michigan, Susan K. Allen, superintendent of East Irondequoit Central School District, N.Y., and Dwight Jones, former superintendent for Clark County School District in Las Vegas, Nev.
The guide walks readers through 9 steps for making their digital transition, and also lists 10 reasons they should consider taking that journey.
1. Lessons can be customized for each student.
In elementary school classrooms, students in the Utica school district rotate through an iPad station. When they log onto the device, they find lessons calibrated to their developmental and learning levels, based on goals set from student assessments. For example, a student who is learning English as a second language might read a passage about American history at a lower reading level, while a student who is a strong reader might get the same information, but with more sophisticated vocabulary. Small-group lessons and activities can also be customized.
2. Digital materials prompt creative teaching methods.
For example, students can be challenged to conduct research about what England was like during Shakespeare’s time. Or they can use virtual reality software to study a butterfly in a three dimensional environment.
3. Students learn to find and critically evaluate resources.
They learn to work independently at their own pace. Or they can work cooperatively using tools such as Discovery Education’s Board Builder.
4. Digital learning prepares students for online test-taking.
More standardized tests are moving online all the time, and digital learning helps students prepare for test-taking that might include challenges such as accessing material through a secure site to prepare a letter to a member of Congress.
5. Digital material can be updated in real time.
Unlike paper textbooks, the real-time element opens opportunities to engage in discussions of current events. High school students with digital social studies textbooks will be able to learn about the results of the 2016 presidential election as it happens.
6. Digital content is engaging and interactive.
Students might explore a historic setting using virtual reality, or build their own figurines using digital tools and 3D printers. Science lessons can include hands-on labs. Students can conduct research through websites and podcasts and collaborate on multi-platform presentations.
7. Students can learn at their own pace.
Digital assessments can show teachers when students are ready for the next lesson, and that lesson can be tailored to the needs of the student.
8. Digital learning prepares students for navigating an online world.
Students learn how to critically assess the veracity and value of sources they find online. They learn to navigate social media with civility. And they learn how to use digital tools such as podcasts, blogs and videos to gather information work in groups, learn, and present information. They also learn to put the digital devices aside for learning and discourse “in real life.”
9. Students absorb modern skills.
The jobs of the 21st century require a new, technical skill set. Learning the basics of coding, engineering, and software development will prepare them for their careers, while helping them become engaged with the building blocks of a deeper world.
10. Students are already comfortable with technology.
Students relish the opportunity to engage with tools that they know. They may become more immersed with material in lessons that use tools such as podcasts, videos and graphics. This approach empowers them to learn at their own pace, with teachers serving as guides instead of lecturers.