In an effort to answer President Obama’s call for companies to become involved with science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education, and also to continue its aim to provide leading-edge STEM resources to thousands of districts across the country, Discovery Education’s new iPad platform comes at a time when educators are giddy with mobile tech fever.
Discovery’s new platform also comes at a time when education vendors are going app crazy; however, Discovery has taken its product one step further.
“When a school or district decides to pilot iPads, sometimes it’s hard because you can’t pre-load apps on the device; meaning if a school wants certain education apps, they have to download them one-by-one, which is time-consuming,” said Craig Halper, Discovery Education’s vice president of customer operations and platform strategy. “We decided to make an online platform specifically for the iPad, so students and educators can access it anywhere there’s an internet connection.”
Halper said that Discovery is focused on making the best product possible, which is why the company plans to optimize its platform for a variety of specific mobile devices.
“When you go to the platform, it can instantly recognize what mobile device you’re using and will optimize for that platform,” he said.
Keeping with its visually-stunning standards, logging onto the platform instantly shows the user how Discovery and the iPad are a great pairing.
Users, meaning teachers and students, have the option of performing a basic browser search located at the top of the page, or can take advantage of the iPad’s touch capabilities with quick access buttons, linking to resources in different subjects and teacher guides.
Each subject’s taxonomy goes four levels deep, and users can browse by most popular, most relevant, or most recent.
So far, the platform includes more than 33,000 of Discovery Education’s full-length videos and video clips from Discovery Education streaming, Discovery Education Science, and Discovery Education Health.
The company says it will soon include articles, images, audio clips, PDFs, reading passages, and additional videos and clips.
This platform is provided at no additional cost to existing Discovery Education subscribers, providing iPad-friendly content and interface to the more than half of U.S. schools accessing Discovery Education services.
Halper said the company decided to do its first platform roll-out with the iPad, because that’s what schools are on the cusp of integrating in the classroom.
“We’re really hearing from educators that the iPad is what they’re planning on piloting in the next few months, so we thought this device is a great one to optimize first.”
Already, Florida’s Miami-Dade County, the fourth largest preK-12 school district in the U.S., has piloted the iPad with Discovery’s new platform.
The district, which has the highest performance in an urban district in the nation, says its relationship with Discovery began a year ago when it used the company’s resources for its middle (K-8) students. Now, Discovery Education is available to all students and teachers in the district.
According to Alberto Carvalho, the district’s superintendent, the district decided to purchase iPads and use Discovery’s platform thanks to a federal grant worth $6 million, and due to the device’s ability to provide 24/7 access to educational resources.
“We’re working with digital natives, and the best time to keep them engaged in the classroom is in the early years, which is why we’re introducing the iPad with our 6,000 middle school students,” explained Carvalho.
Carvalho said that the district decided to pilot the iPad because of the device’s ability to provide anytime, anywhere access to educational resources, like Discovery’s new platform.
Chicago Public Schools plans to implement iPads with Discovery’s platform in its classrooms in the future.
“Discovery Education’s digital content and the iPad’s amazing display have the unparalleled ability to immerse students in curricula and transport them beyond the four walls of their classroom,” agreed Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Science Director John Loehr.
Discovery Education announced its new platform during its Science Institute at Discovery Communications headquarters in Silver Spring, Md., where attendees learned how to leverage tech tools and resources to engage students with inquiry-based science instruction.
Discovery Education’s platform was just one of the company’s resources mentioned at the Institute.
The institute also promoted Discovery Communications’ multimedia, multi-year science initiative “Be the Future,” which also supports Obama’s STEM call-to-action.
Be the Future is a multi-platform tool that includes commercial-free science education programming, a science education research study, annual science student competitions, and a curriculum-based and career development science resource.
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