Intel just awarded Adaptive Curriculum its Learning Series Alliance Partners Summit award for “2011 Most Innovative K-8 Software Solution.” Adaptive Curriculum creates and sells math and science software to middle schools and high schools. It has recently been one of the major respondents to the Texas initiative to incorporate digital learning materials into the classroom; the Houston School District, among other Texas districts, has selected Adaptive Curriculum as its provider.
Companies like Adaptive Curriculum with their digital software for K-12 represent the future for education. They do so with characteristics that make traditional textbooks, even with the accompaniment of some digital materials, essentially obsolete. What they bring to the student and teacher is:
- Online continuous refresh of the educational materials
When compared with traditional textbooks, these characteristics make digital materials the obvious choice for the future of education. There is no question, however, that challenges are ahead. For example, considerable training and retraining of teachers will be essential for the use of this software. It is not likely, in the foreseeable future at least, that digital materials and online schools will replace the traditional teacher. But it is likely that the role of teachers will change. That is why companies like Adaptive Curriculum have made teacher professional development so much a part of what they do.
This new form of educational material also faces obstacles associated with access to the internet, particularly in rural school districts where speed of access, state-of-the-art equipment and technological support remain deficient relative to the needs of the schools. It will be up to states to make improvements that address these deficiencies if we are to see students from some of our lowest income families with the capability of moving into more sophisticated jobs and obtaining advanced education and training beyond high school.
A further challenge is to provide students and teachers with the mobile hardware that is so essential to the use of educational software. While some districts are adopting mobile devices like the tablet, these districts are usually the wealthier ones. Addressing availability and cost is a complex challenge, but the marketplace is already responding with new devices at lower prices from a wide variety of hardware companies like Apple, Dell, Intel, etc.
Finally, there is still more development ahead for software companies. Questions about the role of digital materials as a sometime substitute for the teacher in one-on-one learning, as an adjunct to the teaching process, and as a substitute for traditional textbooks will only be answered over the next few years.
I applaud where we are headed in improving education via technological solutions. Working together, the for-profit sector and our public and private schools increasingly have the potential of raising the quality of education.