At OETC 2015, a team from Hilliard City Schools—including Mark Tremayne, secondary 6–12 instructional leader; Jacob Grantier, high school instructional coach–science; and Jay Smith, technology expert—presented an innovation that might herald a coming sea change for education.
According to Tremayne, what started as a blended-learning initiative evolved into an effort to create authentic resources for Hilliard’s classrooms.
“We have gone 1-to-1 with iPads. Every sixth-grade student has an iPad mini. Within three years, everyone is going to have some device,” he explained, noting that the district is still considering what to use at the high school level. “Once we made the decision that we were going to choose the iPad, we looked at different things we could do with the iPad. We had a science course of study revision happening simultaneously. So when it came time to look for different resources for science, the first person we went to was the state science consultant. We asked, ‘Should we buy textbooks?’ Absolutely not was the answer. So, we decided to dedicate the financial resources we had to technology—different inquiry-based manipulatives and supporting resources.”
When it came time to build the course of study, the team collaborated with science teachers to create a model science curriculum in Google Apps for Education.
“We took the state model curriculum and put our Hilliard touch on it. We did it in Google so we could collaborate and we didn’t have to have everybody there at the same time, all the time,” Tremayne explained. “We had five meetings throughout the year during which we created this document. We spent a lot of time creating learning targets because it’s really the foundation of what we put in our iBooks. We have links for instructional resources that make this an organic document because our teachers on the backend can populate different instructional resources that they’ve created or they’ve found. We’re not saying that everyone in our district needs to use all the resources, but that those that are included align to the standards and that they are vetted and quality instructional resources at their disposal.”
Hilliard chose iBooks Author to build the resources for the curriculum. Then they brought together 20 teachers, basically four teachers per class, who curated content and found links to activities and resources to embed within the iBook. “Our teachers were really passionate about the process.” Tremayne explained. “They wanted to autograph their work with a high level of integrity and expectation.”
Jacob Grantier said that the district turned to open-source resources, like CK-12 Foundation and OpenStax College, for much of the content and sought dynamic tools to engage students. “At Hilliard, we would like our students to interact with text. And when we talk about text and informational text in our classes, we’re not just talking about written word. We’re talking about video, data, graphical representations of information, images, podcasts, blogs and primary source documents,” he said. “So this really gave us the opportunity to customize our resources, such that all of those resources that we wanted our students to access could be in one spot. And, we could ensure the high quality without paying a high price tag and really having control over those resources.”
The team vetted the resources using a rubric developed by the state. Everything is self-contained within the iBooks, with all of the external resources living within the iBook files so students don’t need Internet access. Because of memory limitations of the iPad, they built iBooks in units, ultimately creating 47 iBooks for grades six through 10.
The district also leveraged iBooks’ interactive features to allow for student reflection and self-assessment. “We have the availability to put in interactive PowerPoint presentations that the students can flip through,” Grantier says. “Anytime you see a boldfaced word in our text, it means that it’s a vocabulary term that comes directly from our course of study. If you touch on that word, it’s going to bring up an authentic definition that teachers have written. This will help the students develop that academic vocabulary, which is really important in science. This feature doesn’t need the wireless to work.”
To accommodate those students who do not have a device at home, Tremayne said the district also created a PDF version of each text. “They have access to the same content. Now, do you lose something in PDF format? Yes. You lose all the dynamic, rich content. But the students still have access to what they need,” he explained.
Hilliard distributes the iBooks via their learning management system called eCampus, which currently has Moodle as its backbone. Hilliard has outgrown Moodle and will be transitioning to Canvas over the next year.
“We’re still going to purchase some additional vendor resources but the actual textbook and the instruction resources that we create are going to be in that iBook form,” Temayne said. “With the new learning management system, Canvas, for that workflow management piece, we can take stuff right from the iBook, submit it to Canvas to grade, and then move the grades into our eSchoolPLUS Teacher Access Center.”
Grantier stressed that although the text are highly dynamic, a capable, committed teacher is still an essential component in Hilliard’s educational equation. “We really stress with our teachers is that even though these texts have a lot of information, a lot of media in them, and a lot of interactivity, they’re still just a supplemental resource. They don’t take the place of good teaching. They’re just meant to supplement what we’re doing in the classroom,” he said, noting that Hilliard teachers have the latitude to use and revise the content as they deem appropriate. “I told my teachers that they had the professional license to change that text.”
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