Zoodles Blog Learn and Play Every Day

August 13, 2009

Back to schools without books?

Filed under: Schools and Learning,Technology in the Home — Erin @ 3:55 pm

A recent article in the New York Times points to the transition schools will soon be making from textbooks and worksheets to digital books and interfaces.  Despite the generally optimistic outlook schools might have towards a digital future, mck12any parents are hesitant to feel the same.  There’s concern that something indescribable will be missing from their child’s education with the dearth of the textbook.  Here at Zoodles we thought we’d take a step back and look at what the Digital Era could mean for you as a parent, and how to come to terms with its transition into schools.  If you have any thoughts of your own on the matter, we would love to hear them!

  1. Moving to free, open-source digital textbooks alleviates a significant amount of the financial burden on state education systems, particularly if students already have access to some electronic form of distribution.  It can be extremely costly to keep traditional textbooks updated, and in a rapidly changing world, they’re quick to become outdated.  The transition helps your child get only the latest information in schools, and it also saves their backs from such heavy loads!
  2. Teachers are no longer forced to create lesson plans in subjects beyond their expertise or duplicate work that’s already been done by others.  Instead, they can combine their efforts and form a pool of only the best educational content online.  Saving teachers from having to sift through thousands of websites and activities on their own gives them more time to learn about your child.
  3. Kids are wired differently these days. With growing research on all the ways kids use digital media, it’s clear that kids are developing new (and necessary) skills for a changing world.  This generation of toddlers and teenagers are growing up setting the DVR to record their favorite shows, sending emails rather than letters, and tapping into the Internet every day knowing that they have an infinite base of knowledge at their fingertips.  Even from the usability testing that we do here at Zoodles, we’ve had some superhuman three year olds show us how to use the mouse, the keyboard, and scrollbar to play – and even cheat – at complex computer games!
  4. While the transition to digital in schools may be scary, there’s also a great opportunity to let the change carry over into your home.  With the Internet, you and your child gain access to worlds of amazing educational content, right from the comfort of your own home.

Thus, as a parent, you face the same responsibility that many teachers face every day – filtering thousands of pages of content down to only the best content for your kids.  Inspired by the open-source model described in the Times article, we decided to track down the best up-and-coming websites for finding open-source textbooks and curricula.

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The first is Curriki, a non-profit organization started by Sun Microsystems with the intent of “creating a community that supports the development and free distribution of world-class educational materials to anyone who needs them.”

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The second is CK-12, a non-profit organization with the mission of “reducing the cost of textbook materials for the K-12 market, using an open-content, web-based collaborative model termed the “FlexBook.”  While the content on CK-12 is currently very focused on high school, the platform enables parents and teachers to share content for all grades.

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Third is Scholastic’s TeacherShare, a new project by Scholastic that was founded with the mission of “making high quality educational content and tools freely available on the web.”

Finally, there’s Zoodles.  Like the others, Zoodles was founded to help you as a parent traverse the often-intimidating world of the Internet, and easily put only the latest and greatest educational content in front of your child.  Unlike the others, however, we focus our help on parents with younger children.  These are the parents who face the unique challenge of introducing their children to computers and the Internet for the first time, who spend late nights looking for activities that match their child’s rapidly changing abilities, and who worry that along the way the wrong website  will slip through.  With Zoodles, we hope that parents everywhere can feel equipped to face the digital future, whether it happens in schools or at home.

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