Think of it as a welcome demand meeting an urgent need: Even as public school funding plummets, it’s never been easier to find inexpensive or free high-quality education tools online.
The digital revolution, which smashed old patterns of other traditional media, is radically changing what can be found in the average classroom. Teachers and school districts are turning online for teaching games, collaborative tools, and even custom-made entire “textbooks.”
Texas’ Richardson Independent School District recently held its first “instructional technology integration conference.” Several of the presentations focused on how instructors can find online materials on the cheap. A week later, the Texas Education Agency’s Region 10 held its regular “assistive technology roundtable” for special-education teachers. The topic: “Digital dumpster diving.”
Although high-quality resources can be found for little or no cost, educators face the enormous challenge of sifting out the valuable wheat from the abundant digital chaff.
“There are a lot of free resources out there that we would never use in our classrooms, because they do nothing to benefit the students,” said Scott Floyd, the technology curriculum specialist for the White Oak school district.
His district is part of the East Texas SuperNet, a consortium of rural school districts that are sharing online resources and information. The group has just started the process of using a free online source of school texts to create its own custom-made texts that meet all Texas education requirements.
The resource being tapped is supplied by CK12.org, a website run by a California-based nonprofit foundation originally created to provide materials to students in impoverished countries. But the mission has shifted to help American schools as well, said the foundation’s co-founder, Neeru Khosla.