Everything You Wanted to Know about Digital Curriculum (but Were Afraid to Ask)
Learners today have greater access to digital curriculum than ever before. Edtech innovations in digital curriculum are a practical solution for delivering individualized instruction as efficiently as possible.
As a result, schools rely heavily on edtech for their curriculum needs. Textbooks, supplemental apps, AR/VR experiences, and digital instruction are part of the digital curriculum experience.
Measuring the market size for digital curriculum is like trying to measure the universe. We know about many of the smaller components, but the bigger picture is one that changes constantly. Higher education and PK-12 schools use digital curriculum, and consumers purchase learning apps for use outside of formal learning environments. Estimates suggest that digital curriculum spending in 2014-2015 alone topped $15 billion.
With that much money spent on digital curriculum, it’s critical that we take a close look at what and how our children are learning.
The best curriculum designers work backward. Fenwick English, Wiiggins & McTighe, and others have long advocated for backward design. Curriculum begins with the end goal: what is the final learning outcome? What will the learners be able to do? The process isn’t too different from planning a vacation. You select a destination before taking off in your car.
Of course, there’s a lot more that goes into developing curriculum, like unpacking standards and creating the formative assessment that direct instruction. Digital curriculum in particular, must consider
Additionally, ask if the curriculum builds on principles of enhancement and transformation. One of the multi-disciplinary models that lends itself well to teaching complex concepts is Substitution/Augmentation/Modification/Redefinition (SAMR). Dr. Ruben Puentedura developed the SAMR concept to incorporates technology as a tool for enabling deep learning experiences not otherwise possible.
Adaptive platforms make learning more personalized
As a rule of thumb, textbooks are boring. Online textbooks can still be boring. The same is true of digital curriculum. Completing a worksheet online isn’t too different than filling it out by hand. All we’ve done is change the medium.
Useful digital curricula incorporate adaptive platforms. Learners take an assessment, and the curriculum suggest pathways based on student response. Because students come to the classroom with different experiences, levels of education, and varying needs, adaptive leaning can meet student where they are and take them forward.
Using adaptive learning changes the role of the teacher in the classroom. Teachers who work well with digital curriculum are comfortable allowing technology to determine the next steps in moving toward the end goal. They must also know when to intervene.
How much screentime is involved?
Technology isn’t going away; neither is our reliance on it.
Parents and teachers have expressed concern over the amount of screen time children receive, and rightfully so. Pediatricians advocate for reduced reliance on computer screens because of the impact on health and brain development.
Classrooms that balance digital curriculum with a mixture of whole group, small group, and one-to-one interactions are more effective than learning spaces that rely exclusively on digital curriculum for instruction.
Who’s running the show?
The effectiveness of any digital curriculum depends on who will be orchestrating the digital learning experiences. Best practices suggest that digital curriculum programs will be more effective with a program director who can oversee the implementation, monitor timeline milestones, provide ongoing staff training, and conduct multiple program evaluations.
Gathering qualitative data is just as important as quantitative data when evaluating program effectiveness. Input from students and parents is as important as responses from teachers and administrators.
You’ll find some form of digital curriculum in most schools today. Using it wisely is up to the teachers and administrators teaching our children.
We all can take part in identifying the best-designed programs and recommending practices that help all students.