Currently, 29 states have defined instructional materials to include digital versions; 30 allow the implementation; and six have required the use of digital curriculum. The latest update to the State Education Technology Directors Association's External link opens in new window or tab analysis of the digital learning landscape offered these metrics and others to highlight how state policies and guidance are evolving to support the shift to digital instructional materials for learning.

The fact that SETDA has updated its "Navigating the Digital Shift: Broadening Student Learning Opportunities External link opens in new window or tab" just a year after the previous edition External link opens in new window or tab was published indicates how quickly this segment of education is evolving. The new report rehashes what it calls the "essential conditions" for successful use of digital resources in the classroom, introduced in an earlier report: state and local leadership, equity of access, accessibility for all students, interoperability and policies that support student data privacy and security. The 2018 version also offers an updated collection of "exemplar" profiles of districts and states to demonstrate how others are tackling their transitions.

Along with the report, SETDA has refreshed its Digital Instructional Materials Acquisition Policies for States (DMAPS) External link opens in new window or tab online portal. The portal offers profiles for each state's instructional materials policies and practices along with an interactive map to view national trends. The organization also hosts an online community focused on the top of digital content through edWeb External link opens in new window or tab.

"As educational opportunities shift to digital, SETDA encourages educators, policymakers and the private sector to be strategic about supporting purposeful, meaningful transitions," the report concluded.

The latest edition of the report is available on the SETDA website External link opens in new window or tab.

Source: THE Journal External link opens in new window or tab

women with VR goggles

Though no hard numbers are available yet on how many classrooms are using virtual or augmented reality, new estimates suggest the technology could reach 15 million students by 2025 External link opens in new window or tab. Many people, though, still aren't sure exactly what virtual reality (VR) is, and the definition is continually evolving.

For VR advocates, the technology is rapidly changing the way we see and experience the world. Proponents of the technology can point to real success stories: Here are some of the more promising uses of VR and other immersive technologies already underway across the country.

Bringing Science to Life

Like doctors who have been using VR to assist in surgeries and pinpoint ailments External link opens in new window or tab—by generating 3D models of real patient tumors from MRI scans, for example—science teachers are saying VR can help deepen understanding of subjects such as biology and anatomy, which require students to grasp the inner workings of cells and organs that are not visible to the human eye. Platforms such as Peer External link opens in new window or tab have developed mixed reality content for students that provides compelling visual models of complex physical science concepts like gravity, molecular bonds, and force.

Experience Campus Life from Home

Touring colleges is costly and time-consuming, not to mention impossible for many potential college students. Companies like Campus Tours External link opens in new window or tab and YouVisit External link opens in new window or tab are now offering 360-degree virtual reality tours for hundreds of campuses, from the Georgia Institute of Technology to the University of Minnesota. Using any device (no fancy headset needed), prospective students can “walk” on the paths around campus and “see” themselves among other college students, headed to class or back to the dorms. By clicking on campus buildings, users can get inside and access more than 1,000 college experiences like exploring Geisel Library External link opens in new window or tab at the University of California, San Diego, or an electrical engineering lab at Princeton University.

Building Empathy

This year, the nonprofit Global Nomads External link opens in new window or tab piloted the One World, Many Stories External link opens in new window or tab program, which used virtual reality to build connections between 20 classrooms in the United States and the Middle East.?Through the program’s VR simulations, students are able to walk the streets with a teen in Jordan External link opens in new window or tab or rural Kentucky External link opens in new window or tab and be immersed in their day-to-day life, gaining understanding of other cultures and viewpoints along the way.

Also showing promise: Embodied Labs External link opens in new window or tab is providing training for students to become better caregivers for the elderly by letting them experience the medical challenges seniors face, like macular degeneration and hearing loss. In the simulation “We are Alfred,” users experience the impact of vision impairment during a family birthday party. The platform was selected as one of five winners in the U.S. Department of Education’s EdSim Challenge External link opens in new window or tab for “immersive simulations that will prepare students for the globally competitive workforce of the 21st century.”

Shop Class, Revived

Career Technical Education (CTE) may get a revival through new virtual reality experiences that train students how to repair cars and allow them to complete safety training in 3D. Used by the Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education External link opens in new window or tab to teach aircraft engineering and building maintenance skills, the U.S.-based VR platform zSpace launched vocational simulations in partnership with Shenzhen GTA Education Tech Ltd. in China. Students disassemble and reassemble systems like the transmission or engine, free of risk or material waste.

Although there is no replacement for an actual field trip or live experience, virtual reality does provide an opportunity for a new level of immersion to a place students would otherwise be unable to go or in an activity students would otherwise be unable to do.

Source: Edutopia External link opens in new window or tab


If you read any news story in the past year and a half about fake news, then you likely also saw a reference to media literacy. There is a tremendous interest now in providing teachers with media literacy training and students with media literacy skills.

Those news stories that called for media literacy education were referring to students’ abilities to question, analyze, and evaluate what they consume from the news. In reality, media literacy is much more than just that. Media literacy is critical thinking about media messages -- including everything from propaganda to photos to advertising, social media, and videos. For more than 20 years, the National Council for Teachers of English has recommended media literacy to its members. NCTE is not alone. In 2016, the National Council for the Social Studies passed a revised resolution on media literacy. The Partnership for 21st Century Skills, as well as the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards -- among many others -- are also on board with media literacy recommendations.

The Common Core teaching standards offer a few ideas when it comes to media literacy, but those standards are still confined to print media, when, in reality, our students are already part of the media generation and are thereby exposed to more messages in media than in print. Shouldn’t we be teaching them how to close read the media too?

Many educators are not comfortable with popular culture and don’t understand how bringing it into the classroom can be the catalyst to meeting teaching standards. For the most part, many educators have never received one minute of media literacy training, so they’re ill prepared to teach it. Every educator who uses images and video in instruction needs to have background in media literacy.

Our students need to have experience in both analyzing and producing their own media. In many schools, we’re already allowing students to use cellphones or iPads to shoot and edit photos and video. In many ways our students are already broadcasters and filmmakers, even though they’ve had no formal training. That alone is media production, but it is not media literacy.

Consider the type of media literacy training each teacher needs. If a teacher doesn’t get the necessary training, he or she won’t be prepared to tackle media. It’s not too late to begin charting your district or school’s path to effective media literacy education.

Visit the Media Literacy ClearinghouseExternal link opens in new window or tab online for many media literacy resources.

Also of interest with other resources to explore: Students Won't Stop Fact-Checking Me: Teach Kids to Read News Critically External link opens in new window or tab

Source: SmartBrief External link opens in new window or tab

The House Appropriations Committee late Wednesday approved its 2019 spending bill for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education.

The vote marked a critical step forward as lawmakers race to get all 12 appropriations bills through the full Congress before the next government funding deadline at the end of September.

“This bill funds critical programs that will protect and save lives both now and in the future, and help prepare the next generation to be part of a productive workforce to grow our economy and provide for their families,” said Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen, New Jersey Republican.

The committee approved the bill on a 30-22 vote.

The bill’s overall spending level of about $177 billion is essentially the same as the current year, though it does include a $1.25 billion boost for the National Institutes of Health, to about $38 billion.

House and Senate appropriators are pressing forward on their 2019 spending bills in hopes of avoiding a repeat of this past year, when they kept the government running on a series of short-term bills before passing a massive $1.3 trillion “omnibus” bill in March that funds the government through September.

Source: External link opens in new window or tab