Districts replacing textbooks with digital learning
Oregon School officials said at a December board meeting they’ve noticed more students leaving school without their back packs.
There’s no longer as much of a need for textbooks to do homework. The same is happening at other districts which have a long term goal of eliminating textbooks and replacing them with digital learning.
Oregon and Eastwood schools have joined the technology race and are supplying students with devices such as iPads, laptop computers, and learning software.
In Oregon, a five-year technology plan is in its early stages with Fassett Junior High students being given access to their own personal iPads this year. In 2014-15, Clay High School students will be provided with a laptop computer.
The two districts are recipients of the state’s Straight A Fund Grant, collectively garnering, in collaboration with other learning centers, more than $1 million to spearhead technology and assessment programs.
Eastwood collaborated with Perrysburg, Springfield, Rossford, Maumee, Anthony Wayne districts as well as a local university and an educational service center.
“We are forming a collaborative partnership to help develop online content, whether it be textbooks or resources, for classroom teachers basically with the goal that we will not have to continue to purchase hardbound textbooks,” Eastwood Superintendent Brent Welker said.
Welker says the grant application had to show how developing online content would save the district money. The grant will provide $855,583 toward the seven-district collaborative.
The Eastwood district has already purchased laptop computers for students in grades 8-12, which changes the classroom environment from leaps and bounds compared to when their parents and grandparents attended school.
“There will be times when the teachers tell them, ‘Hey listen, it’s screens up’ or ‘screens down,’” Welker said. “Basically, the goal is to be creating content for class, let them have access to resources, hopefully creating more interactive lessons and basically taking instruction outside the classroom day.”
Welker says grant funds are to develop online content for 10 study areas, including Biology, freshman Science, Algebra I and II, Geometry, English (for classes 9, 10, and 11), Government and American History classes.
“Those are the areas we are targeting to start. Our goal is to be able to work with teams to get those things developed,” Welker said.
The seven districts will likely contract with an online facilitator to make the program work.
“We would have an online facilitator who helps our staff,” Welker said.
“The biggest issue really for the staff is, hopefully, they’ll have a resource the kids can have with them on their devices at all times. That’s probably the biggest advantage for the teacher. Basically, it’s kind of the next evolutionary step getting away from the hardbound textbook. You’re looking at kids utilizing and accessing online content when they need it.”
There will be other elements, such as whether to go to an Apple or PC platform or what other devices to include, which will have to be worked out.
“Those will be decisions we will all be making as far as where the actual platform is going to be stored in. Is it going to be stored in a Cloud or is it going to be stored in all the actual servers in our districts? Those are things that will be determined as we go,” Welker said.
A total of 24 grants from more than 150 individual entities were recommended for a total of $88.6 million in funding by the Straight A Fund Governing Board after a rigorous screening process. The recommendations went to the Ohio Controlling Board for final approval on Dec. 16.
“This is a tremendous achievement. These winners rose to the top of a competitive field of applicants seeking $868 million,” said Dr. Richard A. Ross, state superintendent of public instruction.
“There was tremendous competition to receive a Straight A grant. This first round of Straight A Fund grant opportunities and the others we’ll award next year can be the catalyst for change to help improve our schools,” Ross added. “What’s more, each award-winning project can be a model for other districts to follow. We can spread these fresh ideas to school districts all around the state.”
Oregon Schools collaborated with Bowling Green State University, and will receive $200,431 for the two institutions to work together to assess student growth to meet new state standards.
The goal is for Oregon City Schools and BGSU faculty to develop assessments for evaluating student growth “with a high degree of reliability and validity,” states the grant program’s website.
“Once teacher training, assessment development, field testing, item analysis, and revisions have been completed, these grade 3-11 assessments aligned to Ohio’s New Learning Standards will be made available to districts statewide. The resulting products will significantly reduce, and for some courses, eliminate, the need to purchase vendor student growth assessments,” the website continues.
The $250 million Straight A Fund was created in the new state budget signed this summer by Gov. John R. Kasich. In all, 420 organizations submitted 570 applications to be considered for funds to improve achievement and increase efficiency. The applicants requested nearly $868 million. A new round of grant funding will be held next year. The Straight A Fund is part of a $1.6 billion increase in state funding for education over the next two years.
“This first round of Straight A Fund grant opportunities has started the process of re-examining the ways that we educate the boys and girls of Ohio,” said Ross. “Many great conversations took place in and between our schools, colleges and universities, businesses and other educational stakeholders as part of this process. We need to build on this spirit of innovation and openness to improvement with the second round of Straight A Fund grants and everything we do moving forward.”