Technology

Tennessee Education Groups Create Digital Library for High Schoolers

By / Aug 1, 2016 (iStock/Thinkstock)

With the development of a new digital library, Tennessee high school students will be switching from print textbooks to online learning materials this school year.

A team of education groups and private companies created a digital resource for Tennessee high school students and teachers that replaces textbooks and provides better education through accurate, up-to-date materials.

The Tennessee School Boards Association (TSBA) worked with the Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents, the Tennessee Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development, the Tennessee Educational Technology Association, and the American Public Education Foundation—as well as Apple—to launch the Tennessee Digital Resources Library (TDRL) ahead of the 2016-2017 school year.

“We really wanted to motivate our teachers to think differently about the resources they use in their classrooms,” TSBA Executive Director Tammy Grissom said. “It also gave us a chance to work with teachers across our state and actually give them some great professional development to extend their knowledge and then challenge them to think in the digital world. Because if our mission is truly to prepare our students for the future, we’re going to have to think in the digital world.”

TDRL is a free resource students and teachers can access from anywhere either through the website or by downloading the content from iTunesU. The content, which was curated by 58 Tennessee teachers, replaces textbooks in these main high school subjects: algebra I, II, III; biology; chemistry; economics; English I, II, III, IV; geometry; government; physical science; U.S. history; and world history.

By drawing from the teachers’ collections, the resource is Tennessee-specific and aligns with Tennessee education standards, Grissom explained. It is also downloadable in multiple locations so schools that don’t use iPads will also have access in the classroom. The groups are “hoping this project will open the gateway of new thinking about how we deliver instruction in the classroom and the resources that our teachers use,” Grissom said.

Following a recent Tennessee initiative, school districts can use textbook money for digital resources and infrastructure, making this project possible. Providing digital or open-source textbooks ensures students aren’t using obsolete learning materials because the resources used in TDRL can be updated in real time—as compared to textbooks, which are only updated every few years.

In addition, making TDRL available across the state will give all districts equal access to learning materials, which will help address disparities between them.

“No matter where you are, no matter what part of the country, no matter who you are, everybody can have access to the same resources,” Grissom said. The challenge will be securing the connectivity students require to access the resources at all times.

American Public Education Foundation President David Pickler said in a statement that TDRL is “a game changer for public education,” and the partnership that created it is an example of how best to improve public education.

“We take tremendous pride in having directly supported an innovative, scalable public-private technology partnership that offers Tennessee public school students—and students nationwide—the opportunity to succeed in today’s digitally connected world,” he said.

Alex Beall

Alex Beall is an associate editor for Associations Now with a masters in journalism and a penchant for Instagram. More »

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