Technology— Some classes utilize entirely web-based text books, others pair electronic components with traditional print versions

Thanks to an ever-advancing wave of technology, a little bit of weight will be lifted off the backs of some students in Newberg this year.

As the Newberg School District follows the state’s rotating cycle of curriculum revisions, sections of, and even whole, textbooks in certain subjects will be digital this fall, essentially removing pages upon pages from the backpacks of area youths.

Not only does the digital nature of textbooks line up with the district’s move toward 21st century learning by fostering more interactive learning, but because the cycles last for six or seven years, district administrators and teachers felt it was imperative to consider how a new curriculum would hold up over that period while just about everything else in the world is going digital.

According to executive assistant to the superintendent Mikaela Schamp, who worked on the adoption for social studies and science, the process included both anticipating how students will be using new technologies to access information in the near future and understanding that print textbooks can’t always keep up with the times.

That’s why the district chose to go with completely digital “techbooks” from Discovery Education (which is under the same umbrella as the Discovery Channel) for its science curriculum for third through fifth grades.

“Sometimes with hard copy textbooks, especially in the science area, you can have material that is outdated in three years,” Schamp said. “So with the techbook, you have the ability, as things change over the next six or seven years, they automatically update your curriculum and you have the most current information.”

By licensing the content over that period, the district will also no longer have to keep buying things, like workbooks, each year to keep up.

In the case of eighth-grade social studies, which encountered just about the opposite situation faced by third through fifth-grade science, the end result of going fully digital was much the same, but for different reasons.

District teachers felt strongly that the curriculum they had been using is good, so rather than adopt a new one, they petitioned to continue using it, but change the format of the material from print to a digital.

At all grade levels, this year’s curriculum adoptions were intended to work in harmony with the district’s recent effort — paid for by the 2011 bond measure — to install new equipment and upgrade technology in classrooms, therefore incorporating more hands-on learning to better hammer home the concepts being studied.

“It just dovetailed perfectly with the move to adopting new curriculum,” Schamp said of introduction of new technology. “I think the emphasis was there to make sure what we were adopting was also going to be usable for kids to really get their curriculum, not just have a tool to play with in the classroom.”

Newberg High School began implementing the new science curriculum last year and will complete the transition this year by updating subjects like physics, forensics, ecology and marine biology.

Although digital material is on the rise, Schamp said she believes bibliophiles needn’t worry about print textbooks becoming extinct just yet.

“Some of the publishers are going to move toward having digital textbooks,” she said. “It’s not going to be soon, in my opinion, but over time we’re going to have to start moving in that direction.”

The district has also installed a new library catalog system after it was informed its software would no longer be compatible with school computers.

The new Destiny Quest system will allow students to access the catalog online from anywhere and is designed to better engage students and more easily identify and locate resources.

“That’s going to be really neat for the district level because we’ll be able to clearly track our curriculum – what we have and where it’s going,” Schamp said. “We’ll get a good sense of our inventory that way.”

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