With 30 years of computing technology in public education, finally education technology vendors are aligning their curriculum to state standards. Vendors who sell education curriculum are confident the curricula products they sell can help schools bolster student achievement.
In the late 1990s, pressure from within the academic community to change the curricula and instructional delivery to meet specific outcomes provided an incentive for vendors to move closely to aligning their curriculum with teachers' needs and state standards. They invested money and time by hiring active and retired educators to make sure the curricula products aligned with curriculum standards, modeled best practices, and extended instructional modules.
As the curriculum delivery shifts from software on disks to curriculum on the Internet, finally the task of integrating technology across the curriculum is meeting the needs of teaching and learning. Vendors and educators are partners; they are working together to make learning come alive by engaging all students with technologies that are relevant to them. The technologies include camcorders, digital cameras, and scanners for input plus software for editing videos, importing sound clips, organizing digital photos, constructing animations, and developing simulations into presentations. When classroom curriculum and projects are relevant, students are motivated and involved and thus, achievement improves.
Focus on the Curriculum
Apple computers were first on the scene to provide the hardware and the curriculum software. Apple Classroom of Tomorrow (ACOT) studies looked at the impact of a vendors' curriculum on teaching and learning. The ACOT classrooms' research viewed technology as a tool for learning and a medium for thinking, collaborating, and communicating.
The ACOT study focused on the curriculum, not the technology. Books are not the only source of information. The teacher is no longer the only voice of knowledge. The modern students know of several ways to check the information the teacher is delivering in the classroom. The information is freely available on the Internet or other electronic media and accessing and presenting the information requires the computer.
The vendors' curricula promotes a paperless classroom where every subject taught in schools is on CD-Roms or Web-based. The use of e-Books, e-Library, computer-based instruction, Web-based instruction, distance learning, online assessment, video conferencing, and streaming technologies create an electronic curriculum. In fact, many manufacturers and suppliers of education products are now digitizing their curricula. For example, Prentice-Hall and Allyn & Bacon/Longman have a Course Compass — a dynamic, interactive e-Learning program in partnership with Blackboard, an online company.
Similarly, new vendors are presenting their curriculum with great success. In the late 1990's, Hooked-on Phonics came on the scene like gangbusters and created an uproar about teaching whole language. Parents reacted to the advertisements on TV and questioned school administrators' logic for failing to implement phonic-based reading. These parents were able to buy the product and use it at home. With the computer delivering the content, parents were able to participate and share in the responsibility for their children's learning, therefore impacting the very foundation of learning.
Electronic Learning or e-Learning is reinventing the way people learn. The desk, the chalkboard, the paper and pencil, and the knowledge-giver no longer dominate the classroom. The Internet is the biggest influence. When delivered via the Internet, the vendors' curricula can personalize learning. Any student can use the computer as a medium through which the access of information and resources manifest itself as the supernatural agency.
The Internet is dynamic. Up-to-date information on MSN or Yahoo portals, for example, is as current as the click of the mouse. For the Internet to continue to be effective and efficient in delivering current information into the classroom, schools must incorporate clear goals, objectives, and long-term strategic plans to create the best method of delivering of the information to teachers and students. However, the content requires constant monitoring by educators to be certain that content is appropriate and synchronized with the goals and objectives of the institution.
In addition, the Internet shrinks the globe. Collaboration extends from the classroom to distant places; information is global. The ability to link multiple resources worldwide is an advantage of the Internet. It creates the avenue for an integrated curriculum, thus providing individualized learning modules for all learners.
To sample a list of vendors' curricula, log into T.H.E Journal: Educators' Road Map to the Web. This Web site link provides vendors' curricula online for language arts, math, music, science, social studies, psychology, physical education, and even technology.
Examples of active curricula sites:
Language Arts & Literature
Other vendors' curricula that are making strides on K-12 campuses are Accelerated Reader for reading, Riverdeep for math, and The Princeton Review for assessment. Students use Kidspiration software in the elementary grades and Inspiration software in the secondary grades to organize their thoughts graphically. In addition to the Web and curriculum-based software programs, Microsoft Suite: Word, Excel, Access, PowerPoint, and Publisher in the hands of skilled educators provide an invaluable K-12 curriculum support base.
- Microsoft OfficeXP CD contains more than 24,000 premium images, animations, and sounds to help students and teachers enhance their documents, presentations, spreadsheets, and Web pages quickly and easily. Microsoft also claims that the CD provides a step-by-step process that can help students learn at their own pace, build the skills they need, and practice with real-world examples by selecting just the lessons they need or by working through the complete course.
- Apple Computer's Curriculum Mobile Labs page tells the story about bringing curriculum, technology, and staff development together in one comprehensive mobile solution bundle with the purpose of raising student achievement.
- Macromedia's eLearning boasts that it provides a comprehensive array of software for designing and delivering the most exciting content and sites on the Web.
- AOL@School:Teachers provides teachers a complete package. The site lists each state standard, subject area, lesson plans, special needs & counseling, professional development, classroom tools and tips, education news and research and reference. Students and teachers have chat rooms and bulletin boards — it is a virtual school.
- Renaissance Learning states that it can supercharge a school's curriculum and instruction. The research-based school renaissance school improvement process provides help to educators to dramatically speed up pre-K-12 learning for all students, at all ability levels. The Web site also claims that Renaissance increases reading, math, and writing programs with a combination of software, professional development seminars, consulting services, web-based training tools, and books, videos, and support materials.
- Epic Learning provides the ultimate e-Learning package. The site helps schools design, develop, and deliver e-Learning. The virtual classroom provides a live online instructor-led class environment. Students are able to participate in live presentations and demonstrations, ask questions using either text or audio interfaces, respond to instructor-generated polling questions.
- SBC Knowledge Network Explorer is one of the more aggressive Web sites that is committed to the success of teaching and learning. The Knowledge Network Explorer is the official web site of SBC's education program, Education First. It supports education by helping schools and libraries acquire and effectively use Internet and Videoconferencing technology. Online Learning in the Classroom and Library contains lessons, activities, tools, and resources developed by SBC team of librarians and teachers, all of whom are experienced instructional designers and web developers.
Vendors' curricula use technology to create virtual learning environments, connecting multiple locations. The curricula promote the belief that technology can organize and create accessibility to teaching resources on-demand, thus improving the ability to share best practices. Furthermore, the curricula foster the idea that technology can extend the reach of students. The outcome of using technology is to help students learn early literacy skills, improve their language skills, and engage them in the study of math, science, and subject concepts.
Often, educators considered computer use in the classrooms as hopeless and obtrusive to teaching and learning. This was the conversation in academic circles because earlier models of the vendors' curricula and the method of delivery used the computer as a tool. In the past, the attention around the computer use focused on action (tool) — keyboarding, games, and programming — rather than an agent (medium) for thinking, collaborating and communicating. Now, many vendors' curricula redefine the role of computers in education by providing the information for educators, students, and content in the classroom setting.
Email: Neil Mercurius