SETDA urges shift to digital instruction


“In a time of tight budgets and increasing expectations, many schools today purchase both print and digital instructional materials in a duplicative and uncoordinated fashion, with far too little attention to quality and value for money,” said Douglas Levin, SETDA’s executive director. “If the shift to digital instructional materials is not made immediately, major funding will continue to be directed to traditional materials that will tie the hands of students and educators to static, inflexible content for years to come.”

He emphasized: “Only if education leaders act now can they influence the re-imagination of the K-12 textbook.”

Digital flexibility

According to the report, the advantages to using digital content are that it can…

  • Easily be kept up-to-date and relevant to students’ lives without the cost of reprinting or redistributing print materials;
  • Be made available anytime and anywhere, both online and offline;
  • Be personalized to individual student learning needs and abilities;
  • Be far richer and engaging, including not only text, but also high-definition graphics, video clips, animations, simulations, interactive lessons, virtual labs, and online assessments;
  • Be repurposed by others in perpetuity under an intellectual property license, or reside in the public domain, permitting its free use (in the case of OER).

Although there are many benefits to going digital, the report emphasizes that states are the key to driving this innovation, because they have primary responsibility for determining the process and funding models for the acquisition of instructional materials in schools.

For more news about digital instruction, see:

Albuquerque schools embrace ‘techbooks’ instead of textbooks

States moving slowly toward digital textbooks

Textbook-free schools share experiences, insights

Some states already have made significant policy changes, in some cases with support from the federal government. For instance, Indiana is redefining textbooks and providing flexibility in the use of “textbook funds”; Texas has enacted a similar definition shift and has added an education portal to share content; Utah has begun a shift to OER; and Virginia is leveraging other digital initiatives in assessment to support digital content development.

“We are proud of the work we have done in Indiana to increase technology options for schools,” said Tony Bennett, Indiana’s state superintendent of public instruction. “Increased flexibility to select digital instructional materials and new state-level grants are spreading high-quality, innovative initiatives across our state. This effort has created a thriving 21st -century learning environment for Hoosier children and is helping to drive student success to an all-time high.”

Detailed case studies of these states’ initiative can be found in the full report.

Helping hands

Though many states are making progress, the report acknowledges that policy changes regarding instructional materials are not enough to ensure that digital content is used in classrooms effectively. In making the shift from print to digital instruction, states and districts are urged to address the following issues:

Meris Stansbury

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