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home : news : local   February 6, 2016

9/30/2013 8:00:00 AM
Online curriculum: Way of the future?

Marina Mitchell (right) raises her hand as she was the first student in her group to get a math problem correct in Katie Budnick’s eighth-grade class at Peru Parkside School. The students were using laptop computers instead of textbooks.NewsTribune photo/Scott Anderson
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Marina Mitchell (right) raises her hand as she was the first student in her group to get a math problem correct in Katie Budnick’s eighth-grade class at Peru Parkside School. The students were using laptop computers instead of textbooks.

NewsTribune photo/Scott Anderson
Katlyn Rumbold
Princeton Bureau Chief

A mobile device in the classroom — is that even allowed?
As the world becomes a digital hub for anything from television shows to online banking, area school districts find themselves in the middle of all the excitement, as they are now beginning to offer various subjects through an online curriculum.
The current trends are pointing towards a day when textbooks will no longer be necessary as students at all levels will have online textbooks from their mobile devices. It seems to be a natural progression in the teaching/learning process.
In fact, several school districts now offer an interactive online curriculum in several subjects including math and science. Peru Elementary superintendent Mark Cross explained the move toward electronic resources has been a natural progression as the world becomes more web-based.
“The great thing about having electronic resources is that they are interactive and engaging for the students. Also things can be easily updated, whereas with textbooks once a school district purchases a series you are stuck with that as it was at the time of printing,” Cross said. “Obviously some things don’t change; but as technology changes the idea that some of the online resources can be updated is really important.”
Electronics opens up a whole new world of information for the students and even the parents. They both have access to various resources in a electronic form they hadn’t had before, and by doing so, parents can track what their child is learning.
Parkside Middle School principal Lori Madden explained the many resources available including practice components, further explanations and games with reward incentives built in. She said these seem to be more motivating for the students.
“The textbooks have been offered online, but the interactive components are new,” madden said. “Students can actually go online, complete their homework, and as soon as they complete the problem it’ll say if they were right or wrong. It will tell them what they did wrong and how to do it right.
“Students can get a 100 percent on all assignments by the click of a button,” Madden added. “Our math teachers have all their classroom notes in a digital locker student management program where parents can access all the notes taken in class.”
Madden said students are encouraged to work in groups to figure out various assignments; however cheating is not an issue because each student has a different log-in meaning each problem will be different, but how they reach their answers may be reached by similar methods. She said students can even participate in a virtual dissection so they can learn how to dissect without actually having a frog in front of them.
Even though there are several advantages to this type of learning, there are also some disadvantages including technical difficulties.
“From my standpoint the biggest con is Internet access at home. We know that a percentage of our families don’t have that access at home. In our district, we have hundreds of students trying to access content or web materials so that’s a big thing. We’re moving towards a cyber-connection. It would probably be a smaller challenge if everyone had the same Internet access at home, but that won’t be the case,” Cross said.
Similar to anything else with technology today, there will always be something that someone may have problems accessing. Cross added a big hurdle for many school districts is having the funds to purchase the necessary resources laptops, tablets and other devices for students to use. Over time, Cross hopes these materials will become less costly.
“The cost is a huge consideration in our decisions,” Cross said. “People say it would be so much cheaper when everything becomes Web-based. It’s not necessarily cheaper. I think it’s cost neutral, but over time I’d like to think it will become cost effective since we won’t have to buy books. It is something you do to enhance the education of your students.”
Spring Valley Elementary superintendent James Hermes added the transition to mobile devices and online curriculum enhances the quality of education the students receive. He said it makes sense because students spend so much time on mobile devices outside the classroom, that it could really be beneficial in the classroom.
“We’re a 1:1 district meaning every one of our sixth- through eight-grade students has an Apple iPad. Our goal is that they take this tool and use it through high school and on through college. The students pay a technology fee each year and when they graduate, they will be able to keep the device. This way we’re able to keep updated technology in our students’ hands,” Hermes explained.
Going into their fourth year of utilizing mobile devices, Hermes said teachers can choose from several different apps to engage students further.
“Our teachers do a lot of searching for apps that work with the common core curriculum,” Hermes said. “They’re also helping with the library to download e-books to broaden the range of books available. Our goal is not to be completely paperless. We believe that the device is a tool that each teacher approaches differently.”
Hermes, Cross, and Madden agree that learning online is more interactive and engaging on all levels.
“Schools have changed drastically for the last few years where we’re moving away from memorization of some skill to a much more in- depth knowledge of a particular topic. We learn best when we interact with others and actually use the knowledge, the better we understand it. We may do more digital as we go forward. Our school district is very careful in researching and taking time to make large scale curriculum changes,” Cross added. “There’s so much out there, and we need to make sure they align with our curriculum so our students get in depth curriculum coverage from K-8 to be ready for high school.”

Katlyn Rumbold can be reached at (815) 879-5200 or

Reader Comments

Posted: Monday, September 30, 2013
Article comment by: METALWORKER

In addition too, perhaps. Instead of, at what cost?
How many people, real live, flesh and blood people do U want to replace?
How many jobs lost so a few can line their pockets?
Are computers and tablets,(small computers), Smart phones, Still small computers really to replace warm blooded loving, caring beings?
Really, think about, can that comp. stop a bloody nose carry a gun and shoot a bad guy, snic, snic.
Really, at what cost to all of us.

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