21 March 2014 ~ 6 Comments

Calvert High School: The Digital Curriculum

First in a Series: The Digital Curriculum

My nine year-old daughter spends far too much time in front of screens: TV, computer, tablet, iPhone games.  Whether it is in school or at home, much of her recreational and educational time is online—even the resources her teachers send home are all digital and frequently games-based.  And, as her parent, I have struggled to keep up with the latest and greatest technology and applications so I can understand with what she is interacting and monitor her screen time.  But the truth is, when I was her age TV was mostly black and white, and screen time was limited to special family events or drive-in movies.

Around the time that home had a color TV and drive-in movies became anachronistic (and then nearly extinct), main-frame computers began to be accessible to researchers, and then later personal computers emerged for the general public.  Now, the computer processor in my iPhone has more pure computing power than the big main-frame I used as a college undergraduate student.  Commensurate with that computing power growth, the applications for which computers are used have exponentially increased from games and research to permeate every aspect of our lives.

That extensive reach of technology is easily seen in the world of education, and in many ways the demands of education best-practices continue to drive technological development.  We know, for example, that students should not spend hour after hour in front of a screen engaging in curriculum—students are not empty vessels to be electronically filled.  We know that the time students spend on-line must ask them to engage with the material in multiple ways—for example, reading, viewing video, and manipulating interactive elements.  (We need a new expanded definition of what “multi-sensory” means in the education world.)  We know all of these things from the extant research.

We also know, however, that emerging research suggests that a digital curriculum must ask students to step away from the screen.  A digital curriculum must be deliberately designed in such a way that student learning also occurs in the real world.

As we designed Calvert’s new high school, we were mindful that an effective digital, virtual curriculum does not mean that students spend all of their learning time in front of a screen, clicking through screen after screen after screen.  Certainly, most of a student’s experience with a Calvert virtual course is online.  But, and it is a big “but,” that online experience A) varies in how a student interacts with the material and B) does not stop at the computer screen.

We know that in the most effective education context, students also need to get into the real world: read real literature books, be able to use a library, build things, have science lab experiences, and interact with others.  In the next blog posting, I’ll explore with you how Calvert’s Learn,Use,Teach pedagogy takes students out of the virtual world, asks them to work with what they know, and create deep understandings about what they learn.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to limit my daughter’s on-screen time, and together we’ll download the latest reading app on my tablet.

Eric Isselhardt, Ph.D.
Chief Academic Officer
Calvert Education Services

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  • T. J.

    What about accessibility issues? The traditional printed versions allow parents who do not have Internet access to complete the curriculum. Have this been considered? Couldn’t there be a printed option with textbooks?

  • John

    Transitioning a child from using the traditional Calvert School K-8 curriculum with textbooks to an all digital high school platform does not make any sense for Calvert. A child does nine years of traditional book home school education and then for high school we take the books away? Seems mostly like a way to save money – a nice consideration, but quality education should be the uppermost goal. Textbooks need to be a part of that education.

  • Beth

    I agree. How about the option to use the traditional Calvert textbook way or digital? I think a lot of people will leave Calvert if they aren’t given the option.

  • AWC

    I sincerely appreciate the responses from the Calvert staff when people post to this blog.

    We have decided to enroll in coursework from elsewhere, as the plans for this high school program do not at all fit our preferences.

    Best wishes to Calvert and to those who enroll in the new high school program!

  • AWC

    I sincerely appreciate the responses from the Calvert staff when people post to this blog.

    We have decided to enroll in coursework from elsewhere, as the plans for this high school program do not at all fit our preferences.

    Best wishes to Calvert and to those who enroll in the new high school program!

  • Calvert Education

    We are always happy to listen to the feedback and suggestions of our families. While we will, of course, keep our options open, at this time, the 9th grade program will be a primarily digital program with an analog supplement.