Many teachers today see technology in the classroom as an inevitable part of modern teaching — and this week, Tennessee officials announced the creation of a new online catalog that offers digital course materials to students and teachers for free through iTunes U.
The Tennessee Digital Resources Library (TDRL) partnered with the Tennessee Schools Board Association and other groups to help districts stop buying expensive, often outdated textbooks and to instead spend funds on devices and technology infrastructure.
The TDRL was created for districts to use and share educational resources that align to Tennessee standards. The idea is to help teachers deliver content in the classrooms using technology, according to The Tennessean.
Currently, TDRL offers digital course materials for 14 high school subjects including Algebra I and II; Biology; Chemistry; Economics; English I, II, III and IV; Geometry; Government; Physical Science; and U.S. and World History.
"We are very excited about the launch of the digital library and believe it will be a tremendous resource for our educators and students," Tennessee School Board Association (TSBA) Executive Director Dr. Tammy Grissom said. "The library was developed by Tennessee teachers curating digital learning resources for Tennessee high school courses that are aligned to Tennessee standards for Tennessee students."
Although Tennessee is not the first state to create a digital library (Texas and a few other states have also done so), the TDRL is one of the largest. It took almost 18 months to complete and required the collaboration of 58 teachers with the assistance of Apple, which provided technical assistance to the teachers.
The American Public Education Foundation and Pickler Companies, who funded the program, gave the teachers iPad Air 2s and stipends ranging from$500 to $1,000 for team leaders.
Calling TDRL "a game changer for public education," American Public Education Foundation (APEF) president David A. Pickler, J.D., founder and president of Pickler Companies, said the state of Tennessee was a "true reform leader." He said the partnership the project required is "a shining example of the type of collaboration that can redefine the public education landscape."
"Tennessee has been a true reform leader in the post-common core world," Pickler said. "The state has established Tennessee-specific standards. They are developing curriculum around these high standards, and with the TDRL, we have the opportunity to bridge the digital divide and create greater educational opportunity for all students."
The project also required the partnership of several large organizations in the state, including the Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents, the Tennessee Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development, the Tennessee Educational Technology Association and the American Public Education Foundation.
TSBA and its partners had many ambitions for the TDRL. Mainly, the state wanted to embrace technology's full potential while mirroring the world students function in while outside the classroom. It is also hoped that the TDRL will save both time and money while also offering personalized and adaptive delivery of curriculum.
A significant amount of money benchmarked for education goes toward textbooks, which are often obsolete before they even reach students. Through TDRL, students can use free, modifiable learning resources that are available on iTunes U, making textbooks less necessary. In addition, some think that innovative technology such as TDRL will better prepare students for tech-driven workplaces.
Sen. Jim Tracy and Rep. John Forgety, both early supporters of the project, noted at a lunch that TDRL "will improve the quality of education across the spectrum in Tennessee."
To view course materials, interested readers can visit the TSBA website and click on TDRL.