This article discusses “Four Ways State Leaders Can Help Teachers Implement High Quality Curriculum.” One of the author’s suggestions is that leaders provide time and space for educators to plan. One of the reasons educators need more planning time is that online preK-12 materials have become increasingly complex to use. Here’s why.
Learning List reviewers have reviewed thousands of PreK-12 instructional materials. Our team is adept at learning how to navigate through online materials. These days, reviewing online materials is taking longer because materials often consist of different components to remediate, enrich and extend students’ learning. Sometimes, each component uses a different online platform; more commonly, the assessments component uses a different platform from the material’s instructional components. Thus, merely learning how to navigate through online materials takes longer than it used to.
Moreover, identifying and accessing content contained in different product components is time consuming. We often find that each product component has its own table of contents, but products often lack a central, overarching table of contents. Consequently, educators have to open each component to find and access content relevant to the topic, theme or standards addressed in the lesson they are planning. The lack of a digital table of contents makes planning with an online material time consuming.
One of the biggest challenges we face when reviewing materials is slow load times. The online components contain so much information that the content is slow to load, especially if the user does not have optimal internet connectivity or does not use the devices, browsers and operating systems for which the product was optimized. Moreover, products’ interfaces often appear differently on each device, browser, and operating system, magnifying the challenges of navigating through online materials.
Finally, educators are attracted to materials that allow them reorganize or customize content. This feature helps them add content that their students will find engaging, developmentally appropriate and/or culturally relevant. While the ability to “customize” content is a selling point with teachers, customization takes forethought and planning time.
Over the last several years, philanthropy, research and policy have focused on helping educators become better informed consumers of instructional materials. Helping teachers select high quality materials is just step one; helping them use the materials effectively is just as important. Providing ongoing planning time for teachers is essential if our goal is to ensure that students benefit from the high-quality materials their districts purchase.