The days of the classroom textbook may be numbered, as new technology is allowing educators to bring a new project into their classroom.
Called digital curriculum, the concept allows educators to utilize an Internet-based program that provides all of the information students need, and more.
Students at Redwood Valley Middle School are going to be introduced to the world of digital curriculum during the 2013-14 school year in their global studies class, and that is being made possible through an initiative that had 10 social studies teachers from across Minnesota working throughout the summer to create the new digital option.
Among those educators working on the project was Andy Regnier, who teaches social studies at RVMS.
“Our district is always trying to get better and provide our students a place where they truly learn and are prepared for their futures,” ex-plained Regnier.
The project was initially introduced to the Redwood Area Board of Education this past March when it authorized participation in the program, and after Regnier was accepted as part of the project the work for him began.
Through an organization known as SOCRATES Online, in consultation with the Partnership for Collabor-ative Curriculum, the project brought educators together to design a Minnesota global studies curriculum that met three basic goals:
• That it would be a Web-accessible resource for educators
• That it would move school districts to the point where it would not require the ongoing purchase of printed material.
In other words, one of the goals would be to help school districts save money by creating this Web-accessible resource that would make textbooks obsolete.
• That the digital curriculum offered be aligned with the Minnesota standards for global studies.
The digital curriculum is based on those state standards and is going to meet all of the requirements students need in the course.
“The project was wonderfully organized. It breaks down the state standards and benchmarks for every unit,” said Regnier. “Each teacher was given a unit and had to research to find highly engaging materials, resources and lesson plans and assessments tied to not only the social studies benchmarks but also the ELA (English/language arts) literacy standards.”
Regnier specifically worked on a unit that focused on East and Southeast Asia, and he reviewed a unit on South Asia. Regnier spent 80-plus hours over the summer working on his portion of the global studies project.
The review utilized a rubric with high expectations of improving student engagement and involvement in the learning process as well as ensuring both the global studies and ELA standards are learned, he added.
The units are also reviewed by the project coordinator, Tracy Brovold, who is the technology integration specialist for the Mankato East district in order to determine if they are able to be utilized for all classrooms regardless of the technology they are using.
Page 2 of 2 - According to Bro-vold, the course is going to be hosted digitally within what is known as a Moodle site, and it has been developed with whole group and one to one instruction in mind.
Regnier said even if a district is great, it is consistently striving to get better.
“I can’t grow nearly as much working by myself as I can working with 10 colleagues,” said Regnier. “I got involved to become a better teacher through collaboration and to give our students the tools they need to be successful.”
Regnier said the school district was in the process of looking at new textbooks as part of its constant cycle of updating material for students. Those books, he added, are extremely expensive.
“I thought that money could be used towards technology where we could achieve the same objective of a text, yet do so much more,” Regnier said.
Regnier said Darcy Josephson, the local district’s director of teaching and learning played a significant role in helping get the local school district involved in the project, and the school board opted to make the investment.
Regnier expressed his gratitude for those who have helped get this project under way.
Social studies, said Regnier, has gotten a bad rap, as most people think it is just a teacher standing in front of a classroom lecturing and requiring students to take notes and memorize facts and dates.
This new curriculum helps educators ensure the most recent material is available, and it allows students to see what they learn about everything from history and civics to globalization and economics is not about stagnant facts but is about being part of an ever-changing world.
Regnier is convinced this project can be universally applied in schools, and he said there are similar projects in different grade levels and focusing on different subjects being done via SOCRATES.
The global studies curriculum is being introduced to the eighth graders this year, and Regnier said a recent donation by Orrin Estebo is putting learning pads in the hands of students to help enhance their learning in the digital world.