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As New School Year Approaches, Digital Learning Back in Focus

Fairfax County School Board will hold listening sessions next week to help develop a strategic plan for digital learning.

Teachers, students and parents in Fairfax County didn't have the smoothest experience with digital learning in 2012-2013.

As Fairfax County Public Schools rolled out a new online math program in Fall 2012, students and teachers complained they had difficulty navigating the books, saying there were publisher errors and inconsistencies, technology roadblocks and student difficulty in accessing the information, among other complaints, like a lack of teacher buy-in to the program. They said the program, instead of advancing learning and achievement, was pushing it back, calling the $10.4 million initiative "a big disaster" with no clear solution.

The short-term solution was to re-negotiate contracts to get some hard copy books back in the classroom.

The long-term solution, schools officials have suggested this spring, are a better plan for keeping Fairfax up to speed with online learning trends — not only textbooks but the use of devices like iPads and laptops and access issues, too.

The school system will begin that process next week in a series of community dialogue meetings to gather suggestions about digital learning — a public outreach effort ahead of a planned work session on the issue this fall.

The goal is to spark "some conversations about digital learning in general: what's our vision as a community in Fairfax, what strategies might we want to implement to achieve that vision?" Craig Herring, the director of pre-k through 12 curriculum and instruction, told the board in December.

Students, parents, staff members and residents at-large are invited to give input at eight locations over the next two weeks. The input collected will be forwarded to the school board ahead of the fall discussion.

All meetings are scheduled from 7 to 9 p.m. in the cafeteria of the listed schools.

For more, read:

  • Hardcopy Math Books to Return to Some Fairfax Classrooms
Sandra May 17, 2013 at 07:44 PM
The online programs they support should be tailored to what teachers and students can use. The online math books were nothing more than regular texts that were scanned and put online. They were hard to use (especially if you needed to page back and forth to find topics), and they were not downloadable and pages could not be printed. That meant that students could only access their texts in locations where they had internet access - they couldn't download the books to a laptop, e-reader, or iPad if they were traveling or at a location away from home (say at a sports event or practice). They couldn't print homework pages to take with them if they went somewhere without internet access. In short, the online math texts were not practical. If the school system wants to use online texts, the texts should be downloadable and allow printing. They should also add in features such as interactive modules or links to information. The online texts they have now are useless. Give teachers, students, and parents a chance to provide input as to what features would be useful and wanted in online texts.

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