North Carolina Schools Move Toward Digital Textbooks and Resources


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In 2013, the General Assembly passed Session Law 2013-12/House Bill 44. It states:

“It is the intent of the General Assembly to transition from funding for textbooks, both traditional and digital, to funding for digital materials, including textbooks and instructional resources, to provide educational resources that remain current, aligned with curriculum, and effective for all learners by 2017.”

Even though the legislation affects only public schools, public and independent school leaders say there are advantages and challenges associated with switching from physical to digital textbooks.

Publishers’ sales reflect trends toward digital content. In 2015, digital content accounted for a third of all of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s invoices and about half of its large program invoices, says Jennifer Berlin, director of corporate communications for the company.

“It’s useful to think of digital curricula versus digital textbooks,” Berlin says. “Today’s digital programs offer so much more than a static PDF document and can allow for a more immersive and engaging learning experience for students.”

Teachers’ Perspectives

But what do teachers and curriculum administrators think of transitioning to digital textbooks? Although her independent school is not impacted by the legislation, Tameka Woodard, Charlotte Country Day School’s middle school director of studies, notes the advantages.

“Sometimes when textbooks are published, the material can already be out of date when the book hits the students’ desks,” Woodard says. “In using digital textbooks, students are allowed to have electronic updates for the textbooks. The digital textbooks are also livelier and more interactive.” Students in grades three through eight at Charlotte Country Day School use iPads; high school students use Microsoft Surface tablets.

However, Woodard says teachers also need to be ready for technological glitches, students distracted by devices and students who prefer paper-based materials.

Some teachers use publisher-prepared digital textbooks, whereas others curate materials for digital textbooks. Cary Academy math teacher Nicky Allen, who teaches in a one-to-one environment, creates her own digital textbooks.

“While creating digital textbooks is very time consuming, it is one of the most rewarding parts of my job and one of the reasons I love teaching at Cary Academy,” she says. “I can make my materials directly support exactly what I want to teach, and I don’t have to include things I don’t want to teach.”

Robin Britt, director of instructional technology in Guilford County Schools, says middle schools in the county have had a one-to-one laptop initiative for a few years as part of a federally funded Race to the Top grant. Elementary and high schools in Guilford County do not have one-to-one initiatives.

While Guilford County has not yet purchased digital versions of traditional textbooks, Britt says teachers in Guilford County can access and create a “constellation of resources” to meet students’ needs, however. They might pull in an online article to go along with a traditional textbook chapter, for example. 

Rashad Slade, director of instructional technology, media services and virtual learning in Guilford County Schools, remarks on differences between traditional and digital textbooks as he discusses a Discovery Education Science Techbook that upper elementary and middle school students use.

“In a book you can see a picture of the shark,” he says. “In the Science Techbook, you can hit play and watch the shark feed. You can watch the shark jump out of the water.”

One of the advantages for teachers, Britt says, may be counterintuitive. Because teachers can use available digital resources to assess students’ academic abilities, teachers are freer to “do a lot of face-to-face teaching.” 

Student Access

Teachers need time to learn about digital resources, according to Britt and Slade. Britt says some teachers worry about giving up control and distractions caused by digital tools. Teachers need to think about what they will do if devices are not charged or the internet is unavailable. Student privacy is also important.

While statewide initiatives such as Race to the Top provide much-needed funds for middle schools, Slade says there are still challenges in funding infrastructure and availability of devices that will allow teachers and students to access digital content.

“You’ve got rural areas that may not have signals and Wi-Fi capabilities, and schools don’t have the infrastructure to support this,” he says. “Luckily, Guilford’s in a position where we do have the infrastructure to support this type of access through Wi-Fi access and the capability to handle the load of users [who] all are trying to log in at the same time.”

Dov Rosenberg, instructional technology facilitator at Durham’s Rogers-Herr Middle School, says students and teachers at his school have digital textbooks and resources at their disposal, despite not being a one-to-one school. In addition to using digital textbooks in some classes, students access Discovery Education, NC WiseOwl, NC LIVE and Project Gutenberg. There are four computer labs, a laptop cart, and iPad and iPod carts.

Without a one-to-one initiative, teachers with digital textbooks may be printing from the textbook, Rosenberg points out. “Digital textbooks are a bit of an issue if you’re not one-to-one. Then it means that the teacher and the school are paying for a lot of printing. And I think that’s the kind of thing that most people would not think about,” he says.

Rosenberg knows the advantages of having digital content available, but also understands that the reality at many schools is not every school has a computer for every student, and not every student has internet access at home.

“It is very unusual to have an entire student population having access to a computer and the internet from home,” he says. “Then there are issues of equitability. … I love the online material. I love that it’s current, and it’s up-to-date, but I don’t like that there’s this equitable access issue,” he says.

Many school administrators and teachers agree that there are advantages to going digital. How the General Assembly’s bill will play out in districts with infrastructure and access challenges, however, might be another story.  

 

Kathryn Caprino is a professor and freelance writer in Gainesville, Florida.

 

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November 2017

Step back in time with a 19th-century costumed interpreter and watch the millstones at work grinding corn into meal. Registration encouraged online. Tickets available at the...

Cost: $5/adult, $3 ages 7-16. Free for ages 6 and younger

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Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC
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Cost: $12 ages 13 and older, $5 ages 5-12.

Where:
N.C. State Fairgrounds, Kerr Scott Building
1025 Blue Ridge Rd.
Raleigh, NC
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Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
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Join Mindful Families of Durham, a Buddhist-inspired spiritual community that supports area parents, caregivers, and their children in the practice of mindfulness and the understanding of the...

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Erwin Road
Durham, NC  27705
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Contact Name: Adam, Laura, Josh, Sumi
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Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr.
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
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Cost: Free and open to the public.

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Downtown Durham
120 Morris St.
Durham, NC  27701
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Telephone: 919-560-2719
Contact Name: Susan Tierney
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Participants develop their naturalist skills and understanding of local nature. Ages 5-8 with parent. Register online.

Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
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Celebrate the natural world and where favorite Thanksgiving foods come from. Make a craft. All ages with adult. Register online.

Cost: $1/person

Where:
Crowder District Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd.
Apex, NC
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Cost: $1/person

Where:
Horseshoe Farm Nature Preserve
2900 Horse Shoe Farm Rd.
Wake Forest, NC
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Search for salamanders, owls and more. Ages 10-13. Register online.

Cost: $12/resident, $16/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Raleigh, NC
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
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Park West Village hosts Winter Wonderland in the District. This year’s event will take place the weekend of November 17th. Take the family to enjoy train rides, magical winter lights, live...

Cost: Free; $5 donation for sledding

Where:
Park West Village
3400 Village Market Place
Morrisville, NC  27560
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Telephone: 919-234-6710
Contact Name: Conner Dixon
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Cost: See website for fees

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Gov. James B. Hunt Horse Complex
4601 Trinity Rd.
Raleigh, NC
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Saint Raphael Preschool
5801 Falls of Neuse Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27615
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Sponsor: St. Raphael Preschool
Telephone: 919-865-5725
Contact Name: Sarah Rapp
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Make crafts celebrating turkeys. All ages with adult. Meet at the Cardinal Shelter. Registration not required. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Crowder District Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd.
Apex, NC
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Telephone: 919-662-2850
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Children ages 18 months-4 years and their parents enjoy free creative movement and music classes. The creative movement class focuses on the development of gross motor skills and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Saint Raphael Preschool
5801 Falls of Neuse Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27615
View map »


Sponsor: St. Raphael Preschool
Telephone: 919-865-5725
Contact Name: Sarah Rapp
Website »

More information

Kids ages 6 and younger enjoy stories. Take part in an optional arts and crafts session after storytime for $5.

Cost: Free

Where:
Read With Me Book Shop
111 E. Hargett St., $110
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Learn what it was like to be a kid at the first Thanksgiving. Play games and make a food collage. Choose either the 10:30-noon and 2-3:30 p.m. session. Ages 7 and older. Register online.

Cost: $6/child

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, AL
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Cost: $7-$10

Where:
Sky Zone Durham
1720 Guess Rd., Ste. 90
Durham, NC  27701
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Website »

More information

Children ages 18 months-4 years and their parents enjoy free creative movement and music classes. The creative movement class focuses on the development of gross motor skills and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Saint Raphael Preschool
5801 Falls of Neuse Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27615
View map »


Sponsor: St. Raphael Preschool
Telephone: 919-865-5725
Contact Name: Sarah Rapp
Website »

More information

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Cost: $16/child

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC  27562
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Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Jackie Trickel
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Kids ages 6 and younger enjoy stories. Take part in an optional arts and crafts session after storytime for $5.

Cost: Free

Where:
Read With Me Book Shop
111 E. Hargett St., $110
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Website »

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Cost: $14-$29

Where:
Meymandi Concert Hall
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Cost: Call for fees

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Little Guru Kids Yoga and Creative Arts
215 Glenwood Avenue, Suite A
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Cost: Free

Where:
Saint Raphael Preschool
5801 Falls of Neuse Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27615
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Contact Name: Sarah Rapp
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Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
Cary Crossroads
333 Crossroads Blvd
Cary, NC  27518
View map »


Website »

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Children ages 18 months-4 years and their parents enjoy free creative movement and music classes. The creative movement class focuses on the development of gross motor skills and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Saint Raphael Preschool
5801 Falls of Neuse Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27615
View map »


Sponsor: St. Raphael Preschool
Telephone: 919-865-5725
Contact Name: Sarah Rapp
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Pump It Up Raleigh
10700 World Trade Blvd, #112
Raleigh, NC  27617
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Sponsor: Pump it Up
Telephone: 919-828-3344
Contact Name: Owner/manager Kellie Paterson McHugh
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Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, AL
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

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Cost: $35-$55

Where:
Durham Performing Arts Center
123 Vivian St.
Durham, NC  27701
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Website »

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See the classic holiday story brought to life onstage featuring favorite characters Santa and Mrs. Claus, Hermey the Elf, Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster, Clarice, Yukon Cornelius and...

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
Fletcher Theater
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

See the classic holiday story brought to life onstage featuring favorite characters Santa and Mrs. Claus, Hermey the Elf, Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster, Clarice, Yukon Cornelius and...

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
Fletcher Theater
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

See a contemporary re-imagination of Tchaikovky's timeless music. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $35-$55

Where:
Durham Performing Arts Center
123 Vivian St.
Durham, NC  27701
View map »


Website »

More information

Catch this comedy classic on the big screen—as the symphony plays the charming and delightful score by John Williams live. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $14-$29

Where:
Meymandi Concert Hall
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

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Fit & Able Productions presents the Turkey Chase trail festival at Umstead Park. Take part in a 5K, 10K or 20K. After the race, enjoy fruit, brownies and other...

Cost: $25-$45

Where:
Umstead Park
8801 Glenwood Ave.
Raleigh, NC  27617
View map »


Sponsor: Fit and Able Productions
Telephone: 919-673-4689
Contact Name: Travis
Website »

More information

Celebrate what you're thankful for. Play a game and make a pine cone turkey craft. All ages with adult. Drop-in program. Registration not required.

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Toddler Time is a special time for ages 5 and younger to bounce under the supervision of their parents, and without interference from the big kids. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $7-$10

Where:
Sky Zone Durham
1720 Guess Rd., Ste. 90
Durham, NC  27701
View map »


Website »

More information

Shop more than 20 local vendors offering amazing gifts this holiday season. Enjoy daily raffles with proceeds benefiting local animal rescue Paws in the City. Kids can enjoy crafts...

Cost: Free

Where:
Cary Crossroads
333 Crossroads Blvd
Cary, NC  27518
View map »


Website »

More information

The Raleigh Boychoir makes an appearance before its big Christmas concert.

Cost: Free

Where:
Quail Ridge Books
4209-100 Lassiter Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27609
View map »


Website »

More information

Kids ages 6 and younger enjoy stories. Take part in an optional arts and crafts session after storytime for $5.

Cost: Free

Where:
Read With Me Book Shop
111 E. Hargett St., $110
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

See the classic holiday story brought to life onstage featuring favorite characters Santa and Mrs. Claus, Hermey the Elf, Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster, Clarice, Yukon Cornelius and...

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
Fletcher Theater
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Take a 30-minute tour to view the main power drive and milling machinery. Tickets available inside the park's visitor center. Online registration encouraged.

Cost: $5/adult, $3 ages 7-16. Free for ages 6 and younger

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Explore the historic nature of Leigh Farm Park with a friendly guide. Venture inside the historic farmhouse while being captivated by tales about life at Leigh Farm throughout the years.

Cost: Free

Where:
Leigh Farm Park
370 Leigh Farm Rd.
Durham, NC  27707
View map »


Sponsor: Durham Parks and Recreation
Telephone: 919-560-1116
Contact Name: Natalya Buckel
Website »

More information

See the classic holiday story brought to life onstage featuring favorite characters Santa and Mrs. Claus, Hermey the Elf, Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster, Clarice, Yukon Cornelius and...

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
Fletcher Theater
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Catch this comedy classic on the big screen—as the symphony plays the charming and delightful score by John Williams live. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $14-$29

Where:
Meymandi Concert Hall
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

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