Alabama district eyes digital conversion by eliminating textbooks

By Deangelo McDaniel, The Decatur Daily
December 1st, 2015

District’s digital conversion is an attempt to help prepare students for the world in which they’ll work, school board members say

digital-conversionDecatur City Schools in Alabama is considering a digital conversion that would significantly change how the district delivers education and communicates with parents.

The plan would eliminate textbooks, provide each student a personalized approach to learning, give them 24-hour access to the classroom and eliminate the assignment gap by assigning tasks appropriate for each student’s learning level.

DCS would not be the first school district in the nation to take a total digital approach to learning, but school leaders said they want to be a model for the state in the way Mooresville Graded School District in North Carolina became one for the nation.

“We can do this, and if we don’t, we’re cheating our students by not preparing them to be competitive in a global society,” Walter Jackson Elementary Principal Rhonda Reece said.

Reece serves on an 11-member committee that started meeting in August at the request of Superintendent Ed Nichols. The group, which includes administrators, parents and Central Office employees, rolled out its proposal last week.

If successful, DCS, by 2018, will eliminate teachers leading lessons from textbooks for a model that will include student-directed learning, which relies heavily on digital material.

The plan is ambitious, but it is one committee members and parents Mary Ila Ward and Lorrianne Curtis Sparkman said is achievable before 2018.

“This is where our students are, and the good thing about this proposal is it allows them to customize their learning plan,” Ward said.

The first key step, DCS director of technology Kathy Rains said, is school board buy-in, something the committee didn’t overwhelmingly get last week.