Year Round Learning: the Freedom of Digital Access

We’ve mentioned the proliferation of e-books in the marketplace and the profound impact they are already having in the sphere of education.  Recently, the School Library Journal also made note of this trend, and explored its implications in schools and libraries across the nation. As SLJ reported, “…a majority of elementary school librarians said they either will (18 percent) or may (46 percent) purchase ebooks in the next two years.”  This shift could bring significant changes to the way students and parents access the resources their school provides. 

Checking out books from the school library will start to take on a new meaning as more teachers and parents insist on 24/7 access in school and at home.  Instead of waiting for library day at school, students can log in at any time…and browse digital bookshelves.  In some media centers, children may be able to borrow Nooks and iPads to take home.

And digital libraries would be free of the constraints of the traditional school year calendar.  We’ve long been proponentsof increasing students’ access to books, particularly during the summer months.  Unlike a conventional library system, access to ebooks provides students with the resources of their school’s library year-round, and at the touch of a button.

SLJ also points to “states and school districts [that] are starting to make deals with ebook companies to provide yearly subscriptions to thousands of students at a time.”  As most states face dramatic budget cuts, such deals may make increases in book selections possible for school libraries that could not otherwise afford to expand their collections. 

As we pointed out, Capstone Digital launched its myOn readerearlier this year with great success.  This personalized reading platform provides access to thousands of ebooks and incorporates the power of the Lexile Framework for Reading – not only providing students always-on digital access, but allowing them to read targeted text within their area of interest.

Publishers, like Capstone Digital, and many others, are making great strides in ensuring that students have access to books year round.  Digital access means that students across the socio-economic spectrum are free from the constraints of calendar and location and have the ability to keep reading and learning all year long.

Remaining Relevant with Personalized Learning

Scott McLeod over at Dangerously Irrelevant is concerned about the lack of technological literacy within public education and is asking a long list of important questions.  To mention just a few:

  • 7 billion people on the planet; 5 billion cell phones. 2 billion people on the Internet. 500 million people on Facebook. 200 million on Twitter. 85 million on LinkedIn. 5 billion photos on Flickr; 50 billion photos on Facebook. 17 million Wikipedia articles. 500 billion mobile phone apps were downloaded last year. 6.1 trillion text messages were sent last year. Apple will sell 20 million iPads this year. 35 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube every minute (or 176,000 full-length Hollywood movies each week). When are we going to start integrating technology into our schooling lives like we do in our personal lives and in our non-school professional lives?
  • What percentage of your school technology budget goes toward teacher-centric technologies – rather than student-centric – technologies?
  • How are you (or should you be) tapping into the power of technology to facilitate differentiated, individualized, personalized learning experiences for your students? (emphasis added)
  • When e-books or e-textbooks now can contain hyperlinks, embedded video, live chat with other readers, collaborative annotation where you see others’ notes and highlights, and/or interactive maps, games, and simulations, does it still make sense to call them ‘books?’ How might we tap into their advantages and affordances?
  • Electronic versions of books on Amazon now are outselling both their hardback AND paperback counterparts. Reference materials are moving to the Web at an exceedingly fast pace. When all of the books in your media center become electronic, will you still need a physical space called a ‘library?’ Will you still need ‘librarians?’
  • What percentage of my job could be done by robust learning software that not only delivers content in a variety of modalities to students but also assesses them on their mastery of that content? What percentage of my job could be done by a lower-paid worker in another country who is accessible via the Internet? In other words, what percentage of my job requires me, the unique, talented human being that stands before you?
  • Do I truly ‘get it?’ Am I doing what really needs to be done to prepare students for a hypercompetitive global information economy and for the demands of digital, global citizenship? In other words, am I preparing students for the next half century rather than the last half century?
  • Readers concerned with McLeod’s last point on the emergence of a hyper-competitive global elite should see last month’s cover story in The Atlantic, which illustrates well the new world in which students will soon find themselves.

    McLeod’s other questions are similarly provocative and serve as good reminders of why education must embrace these important shifts in technology.  The focus on technological literacy need not come at the expense of an ability to handle increasingly complex texts.  Students should be able to improve literacy skills across a variety of formats and genres. 

    McLeod’s particular emphasis is on the importance of personalized learning and of harnessing new technologies to facilitate targeted and differentiated learning.  Our own personalized learning platforms (MyWritingWeb and Oasis) were built around the idea of facilitating the move from novice to expert.  Because these tools are web-based students may access them from anywhere at anytime, giving students many more opportunities to write.   And because they are student-centered, these tools do not require teacher administration. 

    McLeod’s questions are worth considering.  And we’re happy to do our part to help prepare students for tomorrow’s hyper-competitive global economy.

    Capstone Digital’s New Literacy Program Launching Next Week

    Capstone Digital is taking personalized learning to a new level. Next week at FETC 2011, the company is launching what it describes as a “one-of-a-kind” literacy environment that will help students take more responsibility for their learning—with the support of teachers, librarians, administrators and parents.

    How is Capstone Digital making this level of personalization possible? Like many other companies before them, with the widely adopted Lexile® Framework for Reading.

    Capstone Digital just announced a partnership with MetaMetrics to use the Lexile Framework to level its digital content and monitor student progress toward goals. According to company President Todd Brekhus, “Our goal is to personalize the reading experience for every student. Collaborating with MetaMetrics to develop our new literacy program puts us one step closer to achieving this goal. Now we can provide educators with a powerful and proven tool to differentiate reading instruction for their students, and track their growth in reading ability.”

    So far, Capstone Digital has leveled more than 14,000 books from its various imprints and divisions. These Lexile measures will enable educators to personalize students’ reading plans—by assigning books at the right difficulty level to encourage independent reading and increase confidence.

    Check back here next week for more details on how Capstone Digital’s innovative new product will encourage a love of reading and increase growth—one student at a time.

    MetaMetrics is an educational measurement organization. Our renowned psychometric team develops scientific measures of student achievement that link assessment with targeted instruction to improve learning.