November 17, 2017

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Digital Terms You Should Know | Pivot Points

In October, I got to work with district leaders as part of the Digital Promise League of Innovative Schools (digitalpromise.org/league). As we discussed common initiatives and challenges, five key themes emerged. In my last column, I examined strategic partnerships. Here I’ll look at digital content, curriculum, and management.

In conversation, it became clear that school leaders frequently overlook existing digital resources in the library and fail to include teacher librarians at the table. Under the umbrella of “digital content, curriculum, and management,” there exist a dizzying array of tools, systems, and resources. Here are terms used by administrators that librarians should know.

• Learning management systems (LMS) provide a digital infrastructure for the classroom. An LMS integrates calendars, assignment management, course websites, grading modules, and collaboration and communications tools into a comprehensive enterprise (centrally managed) solution. While many systems were created for higher education, the market has expanded to K–12. Blackboard and Moodle may be best known, but the marketplace now has dozens of companies and solutions.

• Learning object repositories (LOR) provide management of digital instructional resources. A LOR, or a learning content management system (LCMS), is essentially a library for a range of learning objects, including documents, images, videos, assessments, and more. While some LMS solutions include LOR functionality, stand-alone learning object repositories generally have more features. LOR content can include both commercial and open (free) resources. Examples? Safari Montage and SoftChalk.

• Digital curriculum can range from e-texts to comprehensive courseware and is designed for the classroom. A basic example is the digital or electronic textbook. E-texts can be as simple as a digital copy of a printed textbook or an interactive one enhanced with multimedia. Just as textbook adoptions can include a phalanx of supplemental resources, publishers have developed comprehensive digital curricula that integrate content with diagnostic and assessment tools. Vendors include Pearson, Baker & Taylor, and Scholastic, along with hundreds of start-ups.

• Digital confusion Our district has begun a process of identifying a Digital Learning Strategy. Leaders from three departments—curriculum, IT, and teaching and learning—are developing a cohesive plan for integrating traditionally disparate initiatives. An integrated view of digital tools and resources is essential. Though a host of vendors promise simplicity and integrated solutions, the devil is in the details. This is an opening for teacher librarians.

Librarians can assist in a number of ways. First, they are in the business of supporting teachers and classroom instruction. Ours have also begun training teachers in learning management tools like Canvas and Edmodo and working to curate content. Second, librarians have been using learning object repositories for years: information databases and library catalogs. While digital resource management might be new to some curriculum directors and IT managers, many librarians have a deep understanding. The names may differ, but the challenges of managing, deploying, and evaluating digital resources are often similar.

Additionally, librarians are attuned to the patron and the importance of the user interface and experience. Finally, many teacher librarians manage textbooks and curriculum materials. For this reason, our curriculum director recently tapped a few teacher librarians to develop a system for keeping track of our expanding e-text portfolio.

In November, the U.S. Department of Education convened leading superintendents at the White House to sign the Future Ready Digital Pledge. As part of the ConnectEd initiative by the Office of Educational Technology, this event recognized districts for their leadership in digital learning and reinforced what district leaders shared at Digital Promise—that digital content, curriculum, and management will increasingly define K–12 instruction. Librarians can play a leadership role. No pledge required.

Ray-Mark_Contrib_WebMark Ray (Mark.Ray@vansd.org) is the director of instructional technology and library services at the Vancouver (WA) Public Schools.

This article was published in School Library Journal's January 2015 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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