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Florida DOE Workgroup Report Releases Recommendations to Advance Digital Learning

May 22, 2013
Tallahassee, FLORIDA

The Florida DOE’s Digital Instructional Materials Work Group, established in 2012 via House Bill 5101, recently released their Final Report. The work group was charged with developing options for providing: access devices for students; Content by subject area; training and professional development for preservice and inservice teachers; and funding, including the reprioritization of existing resources and recommendations for new funding.

The group members included a mix of parents, principals, district technology staff, post-secondary administration, and a member of the Florida Council of 100. The group cited various studies that show comprehensive technology use in the classroom yields impressive student learning gains.

Succinctly, the Group recommended:

  • Setting an ultimate goal of a 1:1 ratio of devices to student;
  • Providing content by subject area via a single portal called the Florida Digital Instruction Materials Repository;
  • Providing professional development for educators and administrators; and
  • Different options for expanding funding, such as public-to-private partnerships and incentive based funding for districts.

The detailed list of Goals and Recommendations is as follows:

Goal #1: Every student must have equal access to a device and educational content meeting each student’s curricular needs.

    Recommendations:

  • An ultimate goal of a 1:1 ratio of devices to students by lease or purchase
  • District flexibility to determine the type and mobility of the device
  • Policies and specifications for minimum requirements for devices and digital content
  • Establishment of optimum infrastructure guidelines for school districts to support digital access
  • Examination of the appropriateness and uniformity of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) options
  • Cost savings for student-provided devices versus complications of multiple devices running different operating systems
  • Development of an appropriate digital curriculum first and then obtain the device which best delivers the curriculum

Goal #2: Content initially must emphasize core subjects and courses, and be subjected to a thorough and timely vetting process. Content providers should meet industry standards for interoperability for access across devices and operating systems. Existing resources, including Florida Virtual School content and vetted free digital materials, should be accessible to districts and schools through a single portal.

    Recommendations:

  • Utilize a State Digital Content Repository (Florida Digital Instructional Materials Repository)
  • Ensure equity in access to digital content that supports student learning tied to standards
  • Ensure equity in access at both school and home for devices and primary/supporting instructional materials
  • Evaluate the current vetting process for improvement, including the utilization of a statewide committee to compile and evaluate free digital content and open educational resources (OERs)
  • Amend law regarding adoption in order to open vetting to free resources and open educational resources (OERs)

Goal #3: There must be on-going differentiated professional development for educators from the teacher education program to new teachers to transitioning teachers. A thorough compilation of current and effective district-utilized professional development tools must be established, focusing on the use of technology as an instructional tool to be shared across the state.

    Recommendations:

  • Require initial teacher preparation programs (ITP) to fully integrate digital instructional materials into lessons that support Florida’s education standards (Next Generation Sunshine State Standards/Common Core State Standards).
  • Provide all new teachers, including those new to Florida, with professional development training to fully integrate digital instructional materials into lessons that support Florida’s education standards (NGSSS/CCSS).
  • Provide all administrators with professional development training on technology integration and the administrator’s role in leading instructional change.
  • Ensure initial funding for Digital Implementation Professional Development for a minimum of three years.
  • Provide educators a one-year head start for technology implementation.
  • Utilize existing models such as the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), National Education Technology Standards (NETS) and the Florida Digital Educators (FDE) for establishing comprehensive professional development opportunities for administrators.
  • Align the Technology Integration Matrix (TIM) with the professional development needed for digital implementation.
  • Create an Instructional Coach/ Master Teacher endorsement for educators who can provide technologically-enhanced and technology-based professional development and, if possible, provide additional funding for the endorsement.

Goal #4: Public-private and public-public partnerships must be initiated, expanded and incentivized to enhance the quality of content, devices, infrastructure and professional development, as well as to reduce implementation costs. Incentive programs may include providing seed funding for districts to form partnerships, expanding district spending flexibility, exploring a statewide technology initiative to bring down costs via economies of scale and utilizing vendor partnerships.

Recommendations:

  • Invest new resources in, or reprioritize existing resources for, the statewide expansion of digital education, including instructional materials and professional development and related hardware, software, and infrastructure.
  • Develop and utilize public-private partnerships (PPPs) to help districts and schools provide students and educators with the hardware, software, infrastructure and professional development needed for the success of 21st century digital education.
  • Include other PPP options to help provide resources while also abiding by district policies on business partnerships.
  • Reprioritize funding for the implementation of digital education to include, but not be limited to, a reexamination of the class size requirement in order to maximize technological advancements.
  • Evaluate and modify the instructional materials requirements to give districts increased flexibility on the use of funds.
  • Perform, initially and regularly, a comparative analysis of the Department of Education’s digital education proposal and the school districts’ federal Race to the Top $700 million grant expenditures to ensure no unnecessary duplication of efforts and products.