About the authors
Karen Raugust has written for more than 50 magazines and other publications; authored and contributed to more than two dozen books and book-length reports; and provided editorial
services to publishers, entrepreneurs, corporations, and nonprofit groups.
Mitch Weisburgh has been founding partner at Academic Business Advisors since 2005, and helps organizations align their products and services with the ways purchasing decisions are
made in the education market so that they can scale and make a difference to kids and educators.
What we learned
Karen Raugust and I approached the State Education Technology Directors Association (SETDA) with the purpose of seeing how districts were teaching and selecting materials for Social Studies and Science. The SETDA directors put us in touch with district curriculum decision makers, and we conducted 37 interviews of between 45 and 75 minutes.
In traditional education, the teacher lectures the class, students then read from their textbooks and complete problems at the end of the chapter, and at the end of each unit there is a test. This is sometimes supplemented with activities and worksheets.
That practice doesn’t seem destined to survive for much longer.
In science, the administrators we talked with are focusing their acquisition of content and the application of classroom pedagogy on 3 Dimensional Learning, and in social studies on Inquiry Based Learning. Both practices revolve around engaging a student’s curiosity, letting the students’ need to know (in order to accomplish some goal) drive their need to learn. Of the 37 individuals we interviewed, every one of them had already moved in this direction in at least a few grades in their schools, and was expecting it to spread.
Because this is a new way of teaching, it requires a change in the way teachers conduct their classes. Learning to teach using this methodology requires:
- Different lesson plans requiring prep work and planning
- A more fluid way of interacting with the students and the content
- Different ways to assess student progress and intervene to facilitate student learning
Every interview cited the need for professional development as critical to success.
The materials also need to change. Students are more involved in learning by doing, which diverges from the textbook pedagogies. Many of the interviewees were choosing materials on an ala carte basis. There was a repeated preference for the ability to pick and choose exercises and materials, including parts of textbooks from various publishers, OER, teacher-created materials, and supplemental resources. Having someone vet and curate resources and provide a menu of options is attractive to districts. Many also articulated that they wanted materials that incorporated learning from multiple disciplines in the same activities. This is embedded in the Next Generation Science Standards and was especially noted in elementary education. Also cited was adaptability, providing teachers with the ability to take advantage of new developments and current events.
Open Education Resources (OER), original source materials, and science kits were often stated as critical components of 3 Dimensional and Inquiry Based Learning. The prime focus of the pedagogy was what the students were doing, and the content filled in what the students wanted and needed to know.
Many interviewees mentioned the use of at least some high-quality OER materials in their schools. A common advantage cited by districts that chose free or low-cost resources was that they were able to funnel the savings toward professional development for the teachers and/or activity kits for students.
In many cases, districts are using materials that are a combination of online and print. Even when a district is 1:1, there are issues with a totally digital solution:
- School bandwidth may make simultaneous use of materials cumbersome,
- Some of the resources may not work on the devices the students are using,
- Not all students have high speed access at home.
- Students come to class without recharging their device batteries first, creating need for occasional print backup.
We are seeing a transformation across Education as materials move from print to digital, learning moves from memorization to experience, and content selection moves from textbook adoption to curriculum curation. These changes present incredible opportunities (and threats) to any one selling content or materials into schools. Anyone wanting a detailed analysis of how to approach this market should look to purchase the Simba Information report Lessons Learned: Selecting and Deploying K12 Science and Social Studies Content.