The Choices Program is midway through a multiyear initiative to increase our use of digital media as a teaching tool. While we are enthusiastic about the potential of digital curriculum, we want to make sure that any new materials we produce enhance, not obstruct, the most important part of the student experience—what happens inside the classroom. In terms of student engagement and active learning, we believe there is no substitute for the face-to-face interaction that happens between teachers and students during class. At Choices we are committed to active learning. We focus on developing materials that foster a participatory, student-centered experience because we want students to engage actively with history and think critically about its relevance to the world they live in. With this in mind, the Choices Program has been looking at ways to use new media (including video and audio content) to make the process of reading a digital student text more active than the traditional print format. We have a lot of ideas, and I am excited about the prospect of making the text come alive for students in new ways. We have also had conversations about digital lessons, and our videographer Tanya has developed some amazing digital tools to go with some of our new units.
We know that technology can sometimes be distracting. We do not want to isolate students on devices that detract from group activity. Whatever digital tools we develop, we want them to help teachers foster analytic discussion and productive classroom work. Digital curriculum materials have a lot of potential, but they cannot and should not replace the absolutely essential role that teachers play in student learning. They need to be designed in service to an active and participatory classroom experience.
These are some of the things that we are thinking about as we begin discussions about digital curriculum. What do you think about how digital materials can be used effectively in the classroom?