At a gathering of Washington State educators in Seattle called Educators Talk Real Change in the Emerald City on January 19, 2017, put on by The Learning Counsel, the hot topic of discussion focused on digital curriculum. With rapidly advancing global technology, it is obvious to educators that classroom curriculum will need to evolve with the times. Fortunately, the prevalence of digital devices and the expansion of Internet connectivity are making it easier than ever for teachers to leverage technology. Renton Prep’s very own Dr. David-Paul Zimmerman, Director of AR/VR Technology Campus and Family Counselor, was part of the panel discussion.
Educators from around Washington State, including the Renton School District and the Highline Public Schools, described their progress. While most schools do not yet have a 1-to-1 device-to-student ratio, they are quickly reaching that point. And many have enacted “bring your own device” programs for students who already own a personal digital device.
Since implementing a digital curriculum, Highline Public Schools has seen a 7 percent increase in its graduation rate. They are also seeing higher test scores. Digital learning must be front and center in the classroom in order to generate real improvement; it’s no longer acceptable for this type of curriculum to be optional. Still, overall screen time can be a concern, as students undoubtedly spend a lot of time outside of class looking at digital devices. Increased daily screen exposure is a side effect of digital learning. The Chief Technology Officer at Highline says they’re trying to limit screen time to 30 percent of classroom time, in order to avoid overload.
The biggest roadblock to true inclusion of digital curriculum is access. A key concern is offering online access that can handle hundreds or thousands of students using multiple programs without suffering a massive connectivity slowdown. Also, maintaining connectivity and minimizing network disruptions will be important for keeping curriculum consistent. Limited high speed Internet access is especially concerning in rural areas where it may be limited. Additionally, schools will need to consider hiring subject matter experts in technology and software to maintain these programs without adding the burden to classroom teachers.
Digital curriculum is the future of education. It prepares students for what to expect in the real world. Underlining our ongoing commitment to digital curriculum in the classroom, Renton Prep was awarded the 2016 “Award of Excellence, Digital Curriculum and Strategy.” We’re proud to be part of this tech revolution.