New curriculum products for schools

Discovery Education, the educational arm of the Discovery Channel, is probably best known for its Discovery streaming online video-on-demand service—but at ISTE and other recent ed-tech conferences the company has promoted its new TechBook, an all-digital science textbook for grades K-8.

Discovery’s TechBook is much more than a PDF version of a standard textbook, the company says: It presents information in several different formats, including text and video. An interactive glossary defines science terms in multiple formats, and it can read words aloud to struggling readers. All content follows the “5E” model of instruction: engage, explore, explain, elaborate, evaluate. Built-in assessments are included, along with prescriptions for tutorials based on what topics a student has missed.

About 80,000 students will use Discovery’s TechBook this fall as their primary science “textbook,” said a company representative—including students in Florida’s Collier County. Florida is one of four states—the others are Indiana, Louisiana, and Oregon—that have adopted the TechBook as a core curriculum resource in elementary or middle school.

The content is timelier than that of a traditional textbook, Discovery says—the version that will be used by schools this fall already contains information about the tornado that devastated the town of Joplin, Mo.—and it’s cost-effective, too: about $40 per student in Florida, compared with about $70 per edition for a printed textbook. What’s more, teachers who already use Discovery streaming can access this resource and the TechBook through a single sign-on, the company says.

For math instruction, Conceptua Math has introduced Conceptua Fractions, a free supplemental online curriculum that uses simple models to help students move through fractions lessons. The curriculum is sequenced into nine units and 500 lessons and features formative assessment and progress monitoring. It also incorporates Universal Design principles to help meet the different learning needs of students.

Texas Instruments, meanwhile, has promoted the large gains that schools and districts have realized with the company’s MathForward program, which is a systemic intervention for improving secondary math teaching and learning. North Carolina’s Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools showed middle school proficiency improvements of up to 31 percent on state tests by using this method, TI says.

Language arts and social studies

Fresh from its acquisition earlier this year of online adaptive software company Headsprout, DYMO/Mimio previewed a new instructional resource called MimioLearn, for teaching reading comprehension. Slated for release this fall, the product consists of lessons from Headsprout adapted for use with an interactive whiteboard.

Middlebury Interactive Languages, a joint venture between online-learning company K12 Inc. and Middlebury College, demonstrated its interactive online courses in French and Spanish, which use immersion, engagement, and inspiration to help students learn a new language. The immersion method challenges students to learn a new language as if they were studying abroad. Designed by teams of language education experts, the courses include innovative virtual-world games and 60 hours of video shot on location in foreign countries. Students get to use the language in context with their peers.

TCI (Teachers’ Curriculum Institute), a California-based publishing company created “by teachers, for teachers,” has unveiled a new online social studies curriculum that combines best practices in teaching with interactive learning and rich content. Teachers use an interactive whiteboard or projector to share a large, rich image of a historical event or person. Interactive activities proceed from there, with students participating in group discussions, watching videos, and manipulating images on the board. Students might conduct press conferences as historical figures, TCI says, or take a walking tour of Florence to uncover details about the Renaissance.

Multidisciplinary resources

Traditionally, when hardware and software providers have teamed up to offer bundled services, it has been the hardware provider who has sold the combined solution to schools. But Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s SkillsTutor has announced a partnership with Intel Corp. and Equus Computer that flips this traditional model on its head.

eSchool News Staff

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