I spent some time last week talking to educators in Indiana about their efforts to move from print to digital content in their schools. I picked Indiana educators because about two years ago the Indiana State Board of Education changed the definition of a textbook to include electronic materials and the equipment needed to display the electronic materials. Since then, some early adopter school corporations (as districts are called in Indiana) have aggressively but thoughtfully taken advantage of the option and used it as a springboard for significant reform throughout their school corporation.
It is important to note that Indiana has a unique approach to textbooks – school corporations charge parents rent for textbooks. Because of the change in policy, school corporations can now charge parents rent for print textbooks, digital content and/or computing devices.
SETDA member John Keller sent me the names of five school corporations that have leveraged the change in definition. Each had a different approach to leveraging the new definition as well as a different rationale for doing so, but all were making significant changes, some of which were anticipated and others that were not.
Plymouth Community School Corporation is a case in point. Plymouth had a varied mix of 1 to 1, with some netbooks, some N-computing, and some MacBooks, but none of them going home. When the state changed the definition of textbooks, Plymouth adopted National Geographic for social studies at the junior high school and standardized on MacBooks. They also conducted a 9-month strategic planning process that included the community and their board of education that ended with a wide commitment to digital content and 1 to 1.
Dan Tyree, Superintendent of Plymouth believes the movement from print to digital “is growing stronger and we have to demand it, states need to demand it, and legislators need to demand it.” He echoed what I heard from folks in other districts: “A lot of digital curriculum we have seen is just textbooks online and that isn’t what we need. Digital curriculum and content should be able to change, should be low cost, and should help differentiate lessons, assignments and assessments for each student.”
The program is expanding to the high school next year followed by the elementary school. He admits that all teachers are not ready for digital curriculum, but at the junior high, once teachers made the switch, they liked it.
One unanticipated consequence from the Plymouth experience is the impact on surrounding school corporations. Plymouth held a workshop on what they learned in starting a 1 to 1 program and they had 120 people attend. They have since held a second workshop and about 100 more attended.
Look for more examples from Indiana in future posts and in an article in the June issue of T.H.E. Journal (www.thejournal.com) about impacts of state policy on local schools.