Digital Content in the Classroom

I attended an interesting webinar on digital content.  T.H.E. Journal hosted the event with the following presenters:  Julie Evans, chief executive officer, Project Tomorrow, Matt Federoff, chief information officer, Vail School District, Harold Jeffcoat, director of K-6 curriculum, Cabot School District, Scott Muri, area superintendent, Northeast Learning Community, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, Geoff Fletcher, editorial director, 1105 Media Education Group.

 Julie Evans of Project Tomorrow, a national non-profit group, shared data from last year’s Speak Up national survey of educators, administrators, students, and parents.  Evans shared powerful visuals that highlight that a digital disconnect exists between educators and administrators, educators and students, and among students themselves (gender, grade, etc.) regarding technology use in the classroom.  Based on the data, Project Tomorrow identified five emerging technologies:  mobile learning, STEM, online/distance learning, digital content, web 2.0. 

The overarching message presented is that we need to turn to students as “innovators” and listen to their ideas regarding the use of technology/digital content in the classroom.  For instance, when students were asked what features and functionality they would want in an “online textbook” or “electronic learning experience”, here is what they requested:

  • Electronic notes and highlighting (63%)
  • Self assessments (62%)
  • Links to real time data (52%)
  • Games (57%) and simulations (55%)
  • Powerpoint presentations of lectures (55%)
  • Access to online tutors (53%)
  • Create own podcasts and videocasts (48%)

 I think you’ll agree with me – their feedback reflects a deep interest and passion for learning and an intuitive understanding for metacognition and pedagogy.  Evans’ slides can be found here.

The panelists shared their experiences.  I’ve summarized their conclusions here.

  • Matt Federoff, chief information officer, Vail School District – initiated a “beyond textbook” program that used only digital content.  Interestingly, Federoff stated that they found that the textbook itself was the barrier.  Instead, they created a page for each standard, mapped the online page to the calendar and then empowered teachers to add content to the online page.  The result?  An explosion of best practices – all within one consolidated location. 
  • Harold Jeffcoat, director of K-6 curriculum, Cabot School District – emphasized that professional development is essential.  They successfully developed a “technology academy” that teachers progressed through, dedicated to building foundational tech skills.
  • Scott Muri, area superintendent, Northeast Learning Community, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools – used Discovery Education to bring digital media to students using streaming video.  They developed a comprehensive initiative around Discovery Education, including PD and digital coaching.  They experienced incredible gains in science which they credit to the use of streaming video.  As he said, “Science from a textbook is not science.”

How are you using digital content in the classroom?  Are there more engaging and empowering resources out there that you could be integrating?  Does a digital disconnect exist within your classroom and/or school?