Note: Doug Levin, SETDA executive director, is guest-posting this blog.
In November 2009, the Virginia Department of Education launched a project to explore the implications of introducing traditional textbook alternatives into classrooms. In the 18 months since the launch, Beyond Textbooks has scrutinized cost-effective models that blend the vetted standards-based content and convenience of traditional textbooks with the engaging, dynamic, up-to-date content and resources afforded by the Web.
The goals of the pilot project have been to understand:
- How digital instructional materials can be used most effectively to increase student engagement and educational outcomes and to improve teacher practice;
- The conditions necessary for delivering high-quality instructional materials for a lower investment; and
- The technical, social, and policy implications of replacing traditional textbooks with digital alternatives.
While the authors of the Virginia study correctly point out that the effort is only a pilot, increased student independence and increased engagement were noted by students and teachers. And, researchers observed that the students’ comfort levels with the e-books allowed teachers more freedom to become facilitators of learning.
The year one report [PDF] is well worth a close read and is a solid contribution to our emerging understanding of the ongoing shift from print to digital and open.