In a huge step forward for K-12 education’s move toward an all-digital curriculum, the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE), in collaboration with education publishing giant Pearson, is implementing a pilot program that puts fourth, seventh, and ninth grade social studies curriculum on an iPad.
Supporters say this revolutionary education technology program will test whether students can better acquire knowledge of a subject if instruction caters to different learning styles.
The idea for Pearson to provide an entire social studies curriculum via the iPad was part of the VDOE’s “Beyond Textbooks” initiative, which is designed to “explore the potential of wireless technology and digital textbooks to enhance teaching and learning.” The initiative is supported by a grant from the governor’s Productivity Investment Fund, along with products and services donated by multiple private-sector partners, including textbook publishers and software developers.
The VDOE says it analyzed the commonwealth’s history/social science standards of learning (SOL) assessment data to identify elementary, middle, and high school history content with corresponding achievement levels that suggest a need for additional instructional resources and tools. School divisions were chosen to take part in the program based on their ability to provide the necessary infrastructure and support, as well as their existing relationships with participating textbook publishers.
Besides measuring simple student engagement, Beyond Textbooks also includes a research component to measure the impact of the initiative on classroom instruction. Researchers from Radford University will interview teachers, administrators, and students in the participating schools about how the use of digital textbooks affects teaching and learning.
“The experiences of students and teachers will be evaluated, and the knowledge gained will help policy makers, educators, and our private-sector partners better understand the potential instructional uses of interactive digital media and wireless technology,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Patricia Wright as she announced the Beyond Textbooks initiative during a news conference at Rich Acres Elementary School in Virginia’s Henry County. “We will learn what works in the classroom and build on that as our schools move beyond traditional textbooks.”