25+ Digital Content Providers for #K12

You could be in a home school, private school, parochial, traditional public, charter, magnet, or even a self-directed learning academy. At some point, there is usually a search for content and resources. Where do you go? In the past (at least in much of the United States), this was often a process of searching from a ready-made textbook that would drive much of what happens in the school. There are so many more options today, especially if you want digital content and resources, many of which are interactive, much more than what you can get in a traditional paper-based textbook.

Today we have more information on the web than we could possibly use in a dozen lifetimes. And while there is something to be said for collecting and curating your own learning resources on the web, many of us (student, teacher, administrator, parent) find times when it would be helpful to use more vetted, organized and full-features resources on a given topic or subject. Where do you go to find such resources? Here is a small sample of the digital content options available today for K-12 learners. They range from costly to free, full online courses to collections of content, secular to religious. Some offer full courses and a teacher, but most in this list give the opportunity to take the content and/or resource and use it/them as you see fit in your own school, oftentimes including features that allow you to edit or customize for your specific needs.

Please note that this is not a vetted or exhaustive list. I am not recommending the resources and I certainly left out some excellent options. You will want to review them yourself to find out what best fits the mission, values and purpose of your organization. Nonetheless, I had a request from a colleague for such a list, so I thought I would share it on the web for the rest of the world to use as well. As you have time and interest, feel free to suggest new ones in the comment area or include short 2-3 sentence comments, summaries or reviews of any of these for future readers.

Accelerate Education/Accelerate Online Academy

Apex Learning 

BYU Independent Study – Instructor-Guided Online Courses

Calvert Education 

Concordia Publishing House – The publishing house of the LCMS has growing number of digital resources available.

Connections Learning 

Edgenuity 

EdOptions Online Academy (previously Edmentum)

Florida Virtual School – Global School 

Fuel Education 

Greenways Academy 

Keystone School 

K12 

Learning by Grace 

Lighthouse Christian Academy

 McGraw Hill Digital Solutions 

MIT Resources for High School  

Mizzou K-12 Online 

Mosaica Online 

NoDropouts 

Northwest Liberty School 

Open Education Consortium – This is a database of open textbooks and courses that might align with some school needs. Many are designed for college, but might work for middle and high school as well.

Pearson Learning Solutions Online Course Content 

Red Comet 

Virtual High School

Time For Learning

HSLDA List of Curriculum Providers for Homeschoolers – Did you not find what you are looking for in the list above. This page provides another long list of other digital content and online course providers.

Reading Comprehension, Electronic Texts, and the Digital Divide

What is the nature of literacy in the digital age? For those of us interested in new literacy studies and new literacies, that question is all you need to spark an action-packed evening conversation (or a semester graduate course for that matter). For this reason, I was delighted to see John Jones’s recent article on the DML Central web site (See “How Does Electronic Reading Affect Comprehension?”) and his announcement of a forthcoming article that will further explore this subject. The DML Hub is a high-traffic site that garners visits from plenty of practitioners, so placing the conversation on this site engages people who want to think about the practical implications for teaching and learning.  Jones summarizes and critiques a paper by Ferris Jabr in Scientific American, where Jabr compares reading comprehension on paper and on screen.  As reported by Jones, Jabr argues that paper text continues to have more affordances when it comes to reading comprehension.

It is a worthwhile conversation as we think about the use of text in learning environments, and Jones does a fine job drawing our attention to the limitations of Jabr’s claim. While comparing comprehension of text in paper versus a screen may be a helpful starting point, it seems too simple to talk about two mediums when there are dozens, even hundreds.  A medium is simply a “channel of communication,” and while some speak of the Internet, electronic text or “the screen” as a single medium, that is doing so in the broadest sense.  When it comes to thinking about reading comprehension, it strikes me as important to consider the different ways in which a reader might encounter and experience an electronic text (on a laptop; cell phone; a dual monitor setup; backlit tablet; a non-backlit tablet; as well as different ebook formats that bring with them distinct features like note-taking tools, different forms of pagination, definitions of words by hovering over them, search term features; as well as the ability to change things like background color, lighting, font type and size, and column width).

As I read the Jones article, my mind wandered to a separate but related topic (Aha! Proof of the distractibility of text on a screen!).  What if reading comprehension is slightly worse when reading on a screen versus paper?  What are the implications for learning environments?  Does that mean that I should print everything before reading it?  Does it mean that we should be sure to use more traditional paper texts in class and slow down on the heavy use of 1:1 classrooms?  Or, maybe it means that we should discourage teachers, administrators, students and people in the workplace from reading so much text on the screen.  If they care about comprehension, shouldn’t they get a paper version?

Of course, this is a bit of a straw man.  Few are arguing against the importance of exposing learners to text in different mediums. And yet, I suspect that my meandering thoughts are more informed by my interest in self-directed and project-based learning environments where it is not the teacher who selects most of the texts and text mediums for learners.  In a project, one does not choose the text medium simply because one medium is more likely to result in better reading comprehension.  The student/researcher chooses the texts that are most relevant to the inquiry, regardless of the medium. With the growing collection of digital resources, students have greater access to high-quality texts related to personal projects and inquiries than they do to equal paper texts.  While research on reading comprehension across mediums makes a good and important contribution to the field of education, my caution is about how we seek to apply knowledge about that research to the design of learning environments and experiences.

From an implications standpoint, the results of studies about comprehension of digital texts, while important, do not change the need to prepare people to negotiate meaning, navigate narratives, and experience connected learning in an increasingly blended and multi-modal world. This is especially true in more student-centered learning environments. In other words, even if we find studies that show a slightly higher comprehension in paper texts, that does not change the need to engage in new types of literacies. This is not a simple analysis that we use to decide whether to use a book or a laptop.  Context matters, and people who are unable to engage in literacy across modalities are at a significant disadvantage today, even to the point of having limited participation in a democratic society.  Much of the public discourse of our age takes place on a screen.  What happens when one struggles to negotiate meaning in that context?  That person is left out of the discourse and potentially placed on the sidelines, distanced from the action.

This is a growing understanding of what some of us mean when we talk about the digital divide.  In the 1990s and early 2000s, that term was mostly used to describe people who lacked access to the hardware and the Internet, but today the digital divide conversation is far more focused upon those who have access to the devices, but lack the experience or confidence to use them to read, write and learn in the mediums of our day. As a result, our challenge is not only to understand how reading comprehension differs from paper to screen, but it is also about how to increase reading comprehension across mediums.

 

12 Things You Can’t Do With an eBook

I like eBooks.  I really do.  I have hundreds of them…but I have a couple thousand books, and they’ll always play an important part of my life.  I’m an adult convert to the book. I hardly touched one until my senior year of high school. One summer, house sitting for a teacher who clearly loved books, I set the goal of reading one a day for the next two months.  I might have missed a day here and there, but there is no question that something shifted inside of me.  Even before that time, I respected books. Maybe that was due to good marketing from Scholastic or those posters in the elementary school libraries that cast a vision of reading as a way to explore exotic lands.  I always thought of books as something that could change you, but I just didn’t have the patience or discipline to work through a long one without pictures…not until that summer.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a book is, “a written or printed work consisting of pages glued or sewn together along one side and bound in covers.”  Given this definition, an ebook is not a book, although the OED does define an eBook as “a version of a book.”  If that topic interests you, then there is no shortage of blog posts and articles on the subject.  Here is small selection that I’ve enjoyed:

For me, the comparison of the book and the ebook is a fascinating and valuable topic, but I realize that others see little use in the discussion, noting that the future is one where most reading takes place on some sort of screen.  Whatever the case, I’m devoting the rest of this post to reflecting on the obvious…not to make a point as much as to enjoy what is distinct about the book when compared to its digital counterpart. Ultimately, this is little more than a nostalgic reflection on the role that books play in our past and present.

Things That You Can’t Do with an eBook.

  1. You can’t turn the pages with you fingers.
  2. You can’t rip out a page, which might change the dramatic effect of that beloved scene in Dead Poet’s Society.
  3. You can’t lose it (well, you can, but you can usually download it again).
  4. You can’t watch a friend or loved one unwrap it and read that note on the inside cover.
  5. You can’t line them up on your shelves like a hunter’s trophy chest or relics that remind you of travels to distant lands.
  6. You can’t smell it (although people came up with a variety of solutions for this one already).
  7. You can can’t guess its age by the look and feel.
  8. You can’t use it as a subtle discussion starter with a stranger in the airport by lifting the cover up just a bit higher than usual.
  9. You can’t burn it in protest or blot out the “bad words” with a black marker, just enough mystery to entice the young and clever reader to fill in the blanks for himself.
  10. You can’t write in the margins, leaving the chicken scratch as mental (or emotional) footprints for your great-grandchildren to cipher after you’re gone.
  11. You can’t leave coffee, tea, wine, or tear stains on the pages.
  12. And you can’t steady the leg of that uneven chair with a bad one, leaving you feeling a bit better about wasting ten dollars on it.