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Posted August 9, 2012

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Science, Social Studies and Health Instruction Goes High-Tech

APS partners with Discovery Education to provide dynamic, digital teaching and learning tools.

Albuquerque Public Schools has partnered with Discovery Education to take science, social studies and health education to a whole new level. We’re replacing traditional textbooks with “techbooks,” interactive tools that address Common Core State Standards, ignite student curiosity and enhance learning.

Techbooks

All science classes, middle school social studies classes and all health classes will begin using digital textbooks or “techbooks” that feature both digital and non-digital activities, including

  • Hands-on labs that prompt investigative skills
  • Simulations that provide real-world access
  • Leveled-reading passages with compelling visuals that help readers see key concepts
  • A library of rich multi-sensory materials that offer multiple entry points for students to learn independently and
  • Features such as text-to-speech in Spanish and English, note-taking, interactive glossary, video, audio, and much more.

 “We’re giving students an opportunity to see what they’re learning,” said APS Chief Academic Officer Linda Sink. “If they’re learning about jellyfish, they can go to the ocean. If they’re talking about rockets, they can use simulators to make them launch. We’re talking about students having access to immersive, contemporary, interactive learning tools.”

Sinks said the techbooks are up-to-date and relevant, incorporating current issues into the curriculum and improving learning opportunities for all students. Students will no longer use history textbooks that don’t mention 9/11 or science textbooks that still list Pluto as a planet.

Discovery Education will expand to high school social studies next year.

Techbooks also are much more cost effective than textbooks, coming in at about half the price. The techbook provides anytime, anywhere, any device access. They work with any hardware the district has available - iPad, tablet, mobile device, laptop or desktop.

21st Century Skills

APS Superintendent Winston Brooks said technical literacy is key to providing students with the 21st century skills they need to compete in today’s global economy.

“For those students that don’t have connectivity at home, we have a responsibility to provide them with that access at school,” Brooks said. “We can’t use the digital divide as an excuse to not begin the digital transition any longer. The kids who don’t have access at home are exactly the ones for whom we should be pushing this transition. Without access to the robust learning experiences that technology enables, the divide will only widen.” 

Aligning with the Common Core Standards

The digital conversion aligns with the Common Core State Standards designed to be relevant to the real world and reflecting knowledge and skills students need for success in college and careers.

“We’re changing instruction to make it more engaging, to provide a deeper understanding and to engage critical thinking,” Sink said. “Discovery Education is a tool we’re using to push this kind of instruction. Let’s face it, the world is going digital, but we won’t stop buying printed materials. In fact, we may use some of our instructional materials funding next year to buy more textbooks and materials from the adoption list.”

Sink said the Discovery Education materials support inquiry-based learning through the 5E model:

  • Engage
  • Explore
  • Explain
  • Elaborate
  • Evaluation.

“This type of instruction gives students a deeper understanding of content and concepts,” Sink said. “The 5E model creates learning environments that promote collaboration, creativity and participatory learning.” 

Teacher Support

Discovery Education provides more than 200,000 resources to teachers and their students at all levels. They can be used in a blended fashion with other more traditional resources, including textbooks and science kits inside and outside the classroom.

Techbooks also use real-time assessments  to measure students’ progress and recommend individualized resources that reinforce classroom instruction, prescribing resources targeted to learning styles and performance.

Discovery Education will be providing hundreds of hours of training and coaching for teachers through the school year.

24/7 Access

Teachers, students and parents have 24/7 access to Discovery Education Techbooks at home:

  • Students can use it to work on assignments, review concepts learned in class, and ultimately explore their curiosity
  • Teachers can assess their students’ progress and
  • Parents can both assist their child and monitor their progress.
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