Grove City Record

District participates in digital content consortium

S-W teachers will evaluate e-materials for math and science courses; high schools will get 3,000 Chromebooks

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The South-Western City School District is a participant in a consortium looking to help ease the classroom transition from print to digital instructional material.

The consortium recently was awarded an $8.3 million Straight A Fund grant from the state for its EDCITE project -- Evaluating Digital Content for Instructional and Teaching Excellence. The project is being led by the Westerville City School District in partnership with Ohio State University.

Other participants are the South-Western, Buckeye Local, Fairbanks Local and Licking Heights Local school districts.

John Kellogg, a former South-Western assistant superintendent, now serves as Westerville's superintendent.

"The transition from print to digital materials is a growing trend in education" that will only become more pronounced, said Erik Shuey, South-Western's executive director for secondary education and athletics.

Digital content provides more effective instructional resources for teachers and students and is more cost-efficient than printed materials, he said.

"You don't have to worry about the wear and tear of books, or having to replace damaged or lost books," Shuey said. "The consortium's project will create a statewide digital evaluation portal that districts will be able to use to help them choose the best digital materials while reducing the costs they incur in reviewing potential resources."

The portal will include evaluations of digital materials completed by teachers participating in EDCITE.

A team of South-Western high school math and K-12 science teachers, including members from each of the district's four high schools, will participate, Shuey said.

"Our teachers will be reviewing and using materials for Algebra I, Algebra II and geometry in math and physical science, biology and chemistry in science," he said.

Teachers from other districts will be reviewing materials for other classes, including courses in English and social studies as well as math and science.

South-Western's share of the grant money will total $2.06 million, which includes the cost of supplies, purchased materials and teacher training.

Each teacher participating in the project will undergo professional development to receive training needed to evaluate, select and integrate digital content into their classrooms, Shuey said.

The professional development will be completed by January 2015, he said. The use and evaluation of digital content in the classroom will be done between January 2015 and January 2016.

"The timeframe (for the grant) has been extended to allow for a full year of evaluation," Shuey said. "We want to make sure the evaluations are more relevant and more valid."

The grant money also will fund South-Western's purchase of 3,000 Chromebooks, laptop computers, which high school students will use to access the digital content in the classroom, he said.

"We will have a Chromebook for every two or three students," Shuey said. "It's an amazing cost savings for us and helps us afford the hardware needed for the state's new online assessments."

Aside from the professional development and teacher training, the project will fund expenses the district otherwise would have had to pay for, he said.

The district's "technology road map" includes creating computer training centers in elementary schools, Shuey said.

The goal is that by the time students have completed their education in South-Western schools, "they will be used to accessing this new technology," he said.

Most post-secondary institutions now require their students to take at least one online course, Shuey said.

"We're trying to prepare our students to access the vehicles that access the content," he said.

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