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Guide to Choosing Digital Content and Curriculum

September 01, 2016


A Free Comprehensive Guide for Districts

Digital content and curriculum has been a hot topic for some time, few districts have successfully adopted it in all grade levels and subject areas.


Make a smoother transition to digital learning. This new resource from The Center for Digital Education is designed to help districts make the transition to digital content and curricula more effectively and address the challenges of moving from a print-based to a digital-based curriculum.

What you’ll find in this Guide. It provides context, effective practices and resources for districts and is divided into three sections, with what you need to know to move forward in planning and implementation:

1. Planning for Success: A best practice is to start out with the ‘why, what and how’ so your community is engaged. This encompasses:

  • Establishing a Common Vision and Understanding: The foundation for all decision-making, policy development, classroom practice and digital content selection.
  • Involving Stakeholders: No plan is successful without full engagement from key stakeholders. During the digital transformation process, districts should include both internal and external stakeholders.
  • Shifting the Mindset: Technology offers students the opportunity to take ownership of their learning, and enables teachers to accommodate a more student-centric learning environment.


2. Understanding Digital Content and Curriculum Options:  Learn the general attributes of good digital content and explore the benefits and nuances of free and paid content options, including”

  • Recognizing Good Digital Content: Eleven different aspects you should look for to ensure that content is worth adopting, whether they are free or paid.
  • The Importance of Assessment and Evaluation: Assessments are becoming a more formative process, providing teachers with just-in-time data that can inform day-to-day instruction for individual students. Digital tools provide options for assessment in multiple media formats that can better measure problem solving and reasoning.
  • Going Open with Open Educational Resources (OER): A clear outline of what open educational resources are, how they can benefit districts and how districts can curate their own curricula for any grade level or subject area.
  • Leveraging Purchased Content: When procurement becomes an option for digital resources, districts must weigh the level of quality and cost of the investment. There are several other items to consider prior to purchasing digital content, including license structure, renewal expenses, interoperability with existing enterprise or other software solutions, alignment with standards and district initiatives, and usability that can impact rate of adoption.


3. Implementing with Fidelity: Regardless of whether you curate OER or purchase digital content (or a mixture of both), you need to make sure you have the processes in place to successfully implement it and the infrastructure to support it.

  • Putting Students First: Digital content and curriculum should provide a more convenient and efficient way to introduce the concepts and skills students will need in college and in their careers.
  • Identifying Instructional Models: There are numerous student-centered pedagogies that can support both cognitive and non-cognitive outcomes, including inquiry, making, project- and problem-based learning, design-based learning, game-based learning and culturally responsive teaching. What all of these have in common is the ability to activate intrinsic motivation and drive both student ownership and deeper learning. All of them become scalable through the use of technology and digital resources.
  • Ensuring Teacher Readiness: A significant benefit of adopting digital content is that teachers have the flexibility to choose the most appropriate materials for their lessons and for individual student needs. You should ensure teachers are ready for this shift as early as possible in the implementation. One best practice is to identify early adopters and involve them in the development of cohorts of teachers.
  • Building Out Infrastructure: Independent of using OER or purchased content, a digital transformation requires a robust infrastructure. For the purpose of this document, infrastructure includes maintaining network access, selecting the right devices, ensuring interoperability and safeguarding privacy.
  • Planning for Sustainability: We must think of digital content and curriculum as the new normal and not a one-time activity. Ensuring the plan is fully implemented and the mindset of the entire district has shifted to this way of thinking are essential to sustainability. It’s also important to incorporate a continuous improvement cycle to monitor and assess where you are in relation to your desired outcomes.


4. More ways to make the transition. The journey to digital transformation is an important one, and you can never have enough resources or tools. DreamBox provides many free tools, including:


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