Digital Curriculum Discussion

What is digital curriculum? Has it’s time arrived?  In this discussion post, explore some ideas with us revolving around these questions.

Cheridy:  I have used digital curriculum virtual textbooks issued to me in higher ed. Currently, I integrate my own digital curriculum into my online and face-to face-classes.   Some of what I do is reflected in this blog.  However, it feels like we are only on the brink of discovering what is possible in this arena.

Diving into Digital Books 5 by lib-girl, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic Licenseby  lib-girl
Michael Gorman at 21st Century Educational Technology and Learning blogged about Flexbook in his post entitled Part 2: The Digital Curriculum… Textbook To Flexbook… Free, Open Source, Engaging!   My finding of this post was timely.  I discovered it just after posting What’s A Book?  Is This A Book?  With thoughts of digital curriculum and virtual textbooks fresh in my mind, I found his post intriguing and motivating.  Rather than restate what Michael has written so well, please take the time to read it HERE!  He gives an explanation of the CK-12 organization and Flexbooks, provides helpful links for getting started, and more. 

Kacey:  Interesting. I've considered digital texbooks for some time now and know that we are getting there as the technology is finally coming to fruition. I have yet to see anything in our elementary setting. The publishers are beginning to include some digital components to supplement the texts. The closest I’ve come to experiencing this concept is on my iPad, enjoying digital books and using Flipboard. I can’t wait to see what’s next. Can you explain more about Flexbooks and digital curriculum?

Cheridy:  My understanding of  Flexbooks is “flexible” textbooks in online format.  At this point, CK-12 Flexbooks are mainly engineering, math, science, and technology.  You can browse them HERE. I did a search for English and found a couple for composition.  They even have Flexbooks in Spanish.  Here’s a link to Biologia.  There are some teacher editions and student editions.  They are currently available for 6th-12th, but it appears that they have future plans to expand K-12.

Kacey: I love the idea of having differentiated material for students. It would also be fantastic to have updated material at your fingertips rather than having to wait for the creation of “hard text.” The whole concept is exciting to ponder. It will be interesting to see the K-5 Flexbook material when it is available.

Cheridy:  Yes, differentiation is a positive with Flexbooks.  They can be tailored to the needs of the students.  Specific chapters can be selected to create a curriculum.  Videos are embedded within some of them.  The content can be edited and added to following the licensing agreement.  I could quickly go into the text, highlight key vocabulary for my ELL students, etc.  There is also potential for students to interact with the texts.  I could have my students link to new vocabulary words using an online dictionary.   They could even run the text through Lingro to make it into a clickable dictionary. (See previous posts on Lingro.)  This type of set up could really work well for sheltered language instruction

In looking beyond Flexbooks at the larger picture of digital curriculum virtual textbooks in general, there are possibilities.  I can imagine movement in the direction similar to interactive e-readers where students can take notes, add stickies and interact with the texts in a variety of ways.  The change to the cloud or thumb drive devices will lighten up the backpacks. Cost will be a key factor too.   Oh, and I may be jumping ahead and overly optimistic, but I think augmented reality is on the horizon in education.   Imagine the possibilities of augmented reality as part of digital curriculum virtual textbooks!  Below is a video on  AR. (*Update note: Video removed.) This Wired article puts it into a bit better perspective in the context of books.  We’ll explore it more in another post.

Cheridy: Although digital curriculum textbooks are promising, there are some aspects to consider. A few include equal student access to technology outside of school, learning curve and time to implement for teachers, and the cost if tablets are involved.

Conclusions:  We are at least beginning to employ digital curriculum when we integrate technology into our classes-- technology such as what we are exploring in this blog.  An added component that Flexbooks address is this idea of virtual textbooks.   There are more out there as well such as Science Techbook on Discovery Education  and 150 Free Textbooks: A Meta Collection.

What’s the future of digital curriculum?  It’s fun to imagine.  Happy exploring! 

*A thank you is in order to Micahel Gorman for his post on this topic that spurred our conversation!              

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for all of the exciting information on Digital Curriculum. I am really excited by the idea that newer digital curriculum is open-ended, allowing teachers to add, delete, edit, and expand upon the material with more information, videos, links to other materials, uploading one's own created sets of assignments and questions. I think this would make education much more interactive for students and teachers, as we can tailor the material to our distinct groups of learners, even for individual learners with special needs. I love the idea of highlighting and creating vocabulary lists for ELLs. I could see adding questions to material that move the learner higher up Bloom's (1956) Taxonomy and creating inquiry-based projects to add to such material. Each unit could also have activities that are designed to scaffold for struggling learners and provide enrichment for those learners who easily and quickly master the material. I also like the idea of having a pre-test that allows the learners who already know the material to show their mastery and move onto the enrichment section. This would allow a traditional classroom to truly meet all of the needs of their learners, not just the middle section of the bell curve. It seems the publishers rarely provide enough of this for my liking.

    As an online learner, I find the present state of highlighting and stickies to be not up to where I believe the material needs to go. I want and need highlighting and stickies with notes, but I think that there should be a seamless way in all of the digital books to be able to take one's highlights and notes and seamlessly be able to place them in a study guide or note section. The only one that I am aware of at this time is Nook Study College. It appears to allow you to take notes as you go and view all of the notes on one or more pages. Obviously, one can always open a side word processing program (and I would highly recommend Open Office Writer over Word in terms of efficiency, speed, and cost) and place the notes in a file, but I really think the program should automatically create these notes for the user. The absence of this feature in the digital curriculum sets the learner up for a poor learning experience in terms of not readily being able to utilize cognitive learning ideas of encoding information for later retrieval and recall practice (Ormrod, Schunk, and Gredler, 2009). If such a note-taking feature were a standard, along with the ability for teachers to tailor the information to their particular group of learners, I can see how this would really begin to give digital curriculum a strong advantage over paper curriculum, just as the advent of the digital cameras having equivalent resolution to film cameras caused the changeover for most of us to digital photography.


    Bloom, Benjamin S. & David R. Krathwohl. (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives: The Classification of Educational Goals, by a Committee of College and University Examiners. Handbook 1: Cognitive domain. New York , Longmans.

    Nook Study College (2010). Retrieved from Barnes and Noble website: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/nookstudy/college/features/index.asp?cds2Pid=37196.

    Ormrod, J.; Schunk, D.; & Gredler, M. (2009). Learning Theories and Instruction. (Laureate custom edition). New York: Pearson.