States Expand Support for School Tech

Connexeo - 08/13/2018

The use of technology in education continues to increase, and more and more states are supporting this trend, according to the latest State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) report on the matter.

Navigating the Digital Shift 2018” found that the increased support “reflects the overall shift toward the implementation of digital instruction materials and the opportunity for educators to use digital applications and resources to support student learning.”

Although only six states – Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Maine, North Carolina and West Virginia – require the implementation of digital instructional materials in the classroom, 24 other states allow the implementation of such materials. Nine states – Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, Utah and Virginia – mandate that students take an online course before graduating.

Alabama, in fact, requires students to participate in 20 or more hours of online coursework during the course of their high school careers. The Michigan Merit Curriculum’s standards include successful completion of at least one “course or learning experience” that is presented online.

Louisiana state law, meanwhile, specifically states that “the purchase of electronic textbooks, instructional materials and other media or content shall be maximized to the extent possible.”

Some 26 states have a state digital learning repository, where vetted, curated instructional content is available to all educators in the particular state. That fosters consistency in lesson plans among the schools in a state and can save time for educators looking to fill holes in their lesson plans. While large-population states such as Texas and New York have these digital repositories, others, like California and Florida, do not.

Texas, for example, has the Texas Gateway, which is a public, open interface accessible by all of the Lone Star State’s teachers, parents and students. Its online resources are aligned to state standards, and the portal contains professional development resources for teachers.

The Texas Gateway and other online curated content repositories, such as Ohio’s professional development portal open to certified Ohio teachers, are operated by the state education department or agency. Others, such as the Utah Education Network, are independent.

As the SETDA report states, “Whether the digital resources are hosted on a state platform or a vendor platform, those digital materials are available for districts and schools to use to support student learning. Any district or school can access these state resource repositories to find high quality digital tools and resources. States provide these resources repositories as a service to districts and schools who often don’t have the time and staffing to adequately review and approve digital resources.”

Also, more and more states are requiring that any new printed instructional material must also be made available in digital form. California, for example, has that mandate for any textbook or other material being presented to the state school board or any district board for adoption, with stipulations that the digital edition must match the latest printed version.

Finally, another sign that technology keeps solidifying its foothold in the instructional materials sector is in the states’ definition of what those materials are. Some 33 states have such definitions, and 29 of those include the option for digital. Further, 17 states’ definitions included Open Education Resources (OER), compared to nine in 2015.

The amount of information online that can be shared by educators will only continue to grow, as will the number or textbooks and other instructional materials. While the days of yellow highlighters and solving equations in workbooks are hardly at risk, their co-existence with keyboards will become stronger.

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