The Kentucky Legislature’s Task Force on Student Access to Technology had a hearing today about the Kentucky Digital Textbook Project in the Hardin County School District.
Tim Maggard, the district’s Director of Technology provided a really interesting “tour” of this project, which allows local teachers to harness technology to create their own digital learning modules for students.
Maggard showed the task force an example of a module for “Matter,” which isn’t available to guests at the Hardin web site. But the one on “4th Grade PhySci Motion and Forces” is.
If you go to this web page, you will see a legend of symbols at the top that gives you some clues about the greatly expanded power of a digital textbook over a classical paper version.
For example, in some cases students can see Animations/Simulations, which can be particularly valuable in science where students can conduct virtual experiments on their own, repeating them as necessary if they miss some key points. If they do a virtual dissection of a frog and remove the wrong organ, they can put it back. Try doing that with a real frog!
There are often videos available, and students can also select an audio playback of the text. In addition, there is a translator for reading the module’s text in a foreign language, which can really help English as a second language students.
The jackknife tool opens up a host of extra features like a dictionary, a thesaurus and an encyclopedia and a variety of calculators.
If you want to see what some cutting edge educational technology looks like, click on the link above and try it out for yourself.
Keep in mind, the example above is aimed at fourth grade students, and it covers some often challenging areas in physics. But, with the power of the videos and other features available with a digital text, these concepts can be explained in a much more powerful way than was ever possible with a static, printed text.
By the way, if you find an error in the site, let Hardin County know. Another feature of digital textbooks is that they can be changed if problems are found or if new material is added to the curriculum. Try doing that with a paper text.
One last point: Mr. Maggard made it a point to mention that a lot of the digital tools used to create these web pages are available for free. That keeps the cost of development lower than you might expect.
It might be premature to say this exciting digital learning effort in Hardin County explains why the district ranked high in our new report on efficiency, “Bang for the Buck 2012.”
But, Mr. Maggard’s comments show his school district definitely pays attention to getting its education job done efficiently, and digital learning should be able to improve that efficiency even more over time.