Beyond Limits

Harnessing the true value of digital resources.

GUEST COLUMN | by Eric Crespo

CREDIT WikipediaIn the past, students were limited to the knowledge the teacher was sharing. Unfortunately, in some classrooms around the country, that is still the case. Some teachers continue to use only traditional methods to teach subjects that would greatly benefit from the integration of digital learning resources.

Digital learning resources allow classrooms to go beyond the limits of traditional textbooks by offering tools that provide multiple perspectives on complex topics, ask essential questions to spark sophisticated thinking and utilize multimedia assets to make learning come alive.

The learning experience for Social Studies students is greatly enhanced as they’re now able to witness historical events like the attack on Pearl Harbor and the Fireside Chats.

My experience working in an urban district has shown me that educators and administrators are often reluctant to introduce digital learning resources into the classroom because of the disparity among students who have Internet access at home and those who do not. However, this should not stop the use within the classroom setting as digital resources are a valuable instrument for preparing students for college and careers.  In fact, exposing them to technology they may not have at home is one of the many advantages that quality digital learning resources offer.

Digital resources, such as ABC-CLIO, for example, offer access to anytime, anywhere learning, which means lesson plans can be more flexible. Digital content is also updated more frequently than textbooks, helping to ensure students are exposed to the latest information in a timely manner. Beyond the up-to-date information, digital resources also incorporate more than just text and images into a student’s learning experience. For instance, the learning experience for Social Studies students is greatly enhanced as they are now able to witness historical events like the attack on Pearl Harbor and President Roosevelt’s fireside chats.

As an educator, it’s a requirement to teach students 21st century skills. Making technology a part of the everyday classroom experience helps accomplish this goal. Entire databases of information are available at your fingertips. You can share that information with students so they can explore subjects that interest them on their own. If a student misses a class they can catch up quickly by reviewing materials online. It also provides a web-based means for preparing students for upcoming assessments.

That isn’t to say that a digital learning initiative can be completed by waving a magic wand. It takes careful planning to make sure implementation is smooth and successful. Teachers must be comfortable with new digital resources. Remind educators that students are growing up in the digital age, so it’s important that they grow with their students to help them learn. Part of that growth comes from choosing a vendor that offers professional development. Teachers need to know about everything a resource offers and be comfortable using it daily in the classroom.

It is also helpful to identify early adopters and encourage them to be advocates among other educators who are struggling to incorporate new resources into the classroom. Consider setting up a model classroom where teachers can visit and see the digital resource being implemented with success. Administrators can embed the digital resource within the school’s curriculum guide, including hyperlinks to make it user friendly for teachers. Developing projects, assessments and assignments that directly use the digital resource will encourage adoption and set goals for success.

Digital resources are extremely valuable in today’s classroom, but it takes effort to use them to their full potential. The end result is well worth the trouble, as it sets up students and educators for success now and down the road.

Eric Crespo is the Interim Director of Humanities for Paterson Public Schools. In this role, he supports more than 50 schools in English language arts, social studies and fine and performing arts. He is a member of the Guiding Coalition team in Paterson Public Schools and an ABC-CLIO BRITE team member. As a strong advocate for educational technology, Eric works diligently to help ensure that all Paterson students have access to 21st century learning skills in order to best prepare them for a global economy and society.

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