Westerville City Schools will lead a consortium of central Ohio school districts in a multi-million dollar effort to develop digital instructional materials for the classroom.
The district and five others from around central Ohio were awarded an $8.4-million grant from the state's Straight A Fund for the project. It seeks to smooth the transition from print to digital instructional materials used in the classroom.
The Straight A Fund was established by Gov. John Kasich last year with $250 million to help Ohio educators find innovative and creative ways to stay ahead of the curve in education and save money in the process.
In this year's round of awards, the Straight A Fund Governing Board awarded 34 grants for a total of $141.9 million. More than 660 separate organizations requested more than $761 million in funding.
Westerville is the lead partner for the the EdCITE consortium -- Evaluating Digital Content for Instructional and Teaching Excellence -- which also includes South-Western City Schools, Licking Heights Local, Fairbanks Local, Buckeye Valley Local and Ohio State University.
EdCITE is helping teachers to review and utilize digital resources instead of print sources to align with Ohio's new learning standards. The initiative is expected to impact more than 20,000 students and projected to save $4.2 million.
"We know what technology can do in classrooms," Westerville City School District Superintendent John Kellogg said. "I know our teachers will use those tools and use that technology."
Though the grant went to the Westerville district, it will retain about $1.6 million for its own EdCITE purposes. That will be used to help pay for 1,900 technology devices, teacher training and resources. The district will reallocate the remaining fund money to its partnering districts.
As part of the initiative, teachers who participate will create and have access to Digital Content Evaluation Portal, or DCEP.
Similar to niche websites like TripAdvisor.com that allow users to read reviews on various topics, this portal allows teachers to write reviews about educational e-resources, or explore reviews, prior to purchasing new tools.
"One part of the grant is Ohio State University developed a rubric to help evaluate digital content. That is one skill our teaching staff will benefit from," Kellogg said. "Digital content and video is a whole other world. They will learn how to evaluate that."
The award money also will fund professional development training for teachers, to teach them how to evaluate and analyze appropriate digital content and how to integrate it into their classrooms.
"Simply put, the purpose of this grant is to help teachers make the best choices for classroom use," Westerville City School District instructional technology coordinator Stephanie Donofe said in a press release.
"Our efforts will positively impact student learning around the state," Donofe said. "In the end, Ohio school districts will be able to provide more customized, personalized learning experiences that meet their students' diverse instructional needs."
Westerville City Schools also received additional Straight A grants from their participation in Innovation Generation and DataStrong programs.