Digitizing Curriculum Development: Think Efficiency

Digital Curriculum Development edWebinar recording link


With all of the digital tools available to teachers these days, developing learning experiences should be a cinch, right? While virtual resources abound, the systems are not coordinated enough to fully address teachers’ curriculum-design needs and to support them as they help students build a coherent body of knowledge.

But there are solutions, some already in place that are making it easier to design quality curricula that truly benefit learners.

In a recent edWebinar, “Digital Curriculum Development: The Missing Time-Saving Link,” Daniel Ralyea, Director of the Office of Research and Data Analysis at the South Carolina Department of Education, and Mark T. Masterson, Vice President of Government Solutions at LearningMate, discuss how coordinated digitization can help teachers more efficiently create standards-aligned curricula.

Digital Dexterity? There Could be More of It

“Many of us live in this world, says Ralyea, ”where you have to find resources to build a curriculum that leverages standards to help move students build a body of knowledge.

“But, it’s all over the place,” he laments, “with the various textbooks, standards, digital search engines, and vendors.”

Ralyea knows well the challenge of haphazard coordination, having lived it in South Carolina, where he had to work with a standards-based report card. While developing curricula within a grade level, he was also looking at the vertical articulation of standards. And then cutting and pasting them to align with varied curricular elements.

“It was very difficult—and incredibly time consuming—to that organization,” he shares, “and to do it for multiple subjects and multiple preps. And then sharing it with people meant handing over a document or a PDF at best.”

This scattershot method begs the question: Where’s the efficiency? Full coordinated digitization is what Ralyea and Masterson envision.

Digitization to the Max: What That Could Look Like

Masterson emphasizes interoperability as the ideal approach: the integration of resources and standards to curricula creation, vetting, and sharing. These linkages, adds Ralyea, would ease the labor-intensive process at play for teachers bringing content to life.

“In an ideal world,” muses Ralyea, “your state would produce a machine-readable standard translated into an easily consumable format. They would be delivered to your learning management system or downloaded into an Excel notebook, or whatever vehicle can absorb them.”

The standards, he adds, would get tagged with a universal ID or a GUID (Globally Unique Identifier, an integer number used to identify resources). If a standard changed, the GUID would allow component systems to detect that change and automatically update resources aligned with the new standard.

With a fully automated central source, he says, teachers across a state would be able to digitally produce lesson plans and other learning materials with options to, for example: drag and drop standards to form a unit; fill in a pacing guide with the associated standards-aligned support document; or use interactive rubric to evaluate an assessment or link to a vendor product to determine standard correlation.

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What’s Out There Now

Just a dream? Not really. Fully coordinated digitization is a real possibility given existing programs and continuous tech innovation and evolution. What’s out in the digital education realm now that shows promise for future enhancements? Let’s explore.

Sharing PlatformsRalyea notes that a major aspect of digitization is the ability to share standards-aligned resources with peers. That’s already happening with tools like Google Classroom. Imagine this sharing option built into a coordinated system that allows for greater curricular adaptation and usage?

Standards SeveralVendors produce tools that correspond with the Competencies and Academic Standards Exchange (CASE), specifications that define how systems exchange and manage information about learning standards and/or competencies in a digitally-referenceable way (goodbye PDFs!).

Open Educational Resources (OER) – These are educational materials in the public domain or introduced with an open license. As people crowd source or review these materials, explains Ralyea, they can link to the standards to make sure entries are juried and of high quality. These typically rely on the resource pool and its state-defined linkages.

ACMT, LearningMate ACMT is what Ralyea envisions by way of coordinate digitization. It’s a fully digital authoring and communication platform that facilitates the management and dissemination of education competencies and standards, streamlining teacher workflow, organizing standards, and connecting districts.

Moving Forward

Coordinated digitization is happening but not at scale. As it evolves, there are a few things to do along the way:

  • Teachers need to let stakeholders know digitization could make their work easier and less time consuming, enabling them to better support students. They should reach out to the principal and even the PTA to get the process started.
  • Stakeholders should assess their digital beliefs to see where they stand, and also consider tech affordability and accessibility with regard to digitization.
  • Everyone should ask questions about systems under consideration, such as: Will there be linkages to an LMS? Will the system provide access to evidence-based resources? Do vendors use CASE?

The goal of digitization overall? To Ralyea, it is to remove the challenges involved with creating and sharing curricula by doing it “just a little bit better.”

This edWebinar was sponsored by LearningMate.

Watch the Recording

This article was modified and published by EdScoop.

About the Presenters

Daniel Ralyea is director of the Office of Research and Data Analysis, South Carolina Department of Education. His deep interest in education, process improvement, SAS programming and data-driven decision making have shaped his career path. Six Sigma™ training provided him with the background to identify and capitalize on professional opportunities. Dan believes the education industry is poised to merge educators’ passion for teaching and learning with data that maximize their effectiveness. He wants to be a catalyst for that merger.

Mark T. Masterson is vice president of Government Solutions at LearningMate. He works with the company’s technology and business intelligence teams to devise scalable and sustainable technology solutions, while guiding content development and technology accelerators to better support state and local education agencies. Mark is a customer-focused business leader with extensive experience leading large-scale business and IT transformations. Prior to LearningMate, Mark served as an IT executive at Fortune 500 companies including American Airlines, DHL, and most recently, as the CIO at Arizona’s Department of Education.

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