When I first became a School Board member, I had ideas on how to reimage the classroom.

I still do.

Although the technologies now exist, my original thoughts and visions are still several years away.

But the culmination of one project I promoted six years ago is about to happen.

Digital textbooks and courseware.

With the advent of technology such as the iPad, school districts around the country are testing the idea of using digital textbooks and media in the classroom.

The idea of digital textbooks didn’t just appear out of thin air.

It came from years of work between school districts and companies like Apple.

The Broward school technology folks have been in the thick of it from the start.

At the beginning of 2005, several members of the district traveled to Apple headquarters in California to discuss ideas on digital delivery of textbooks and courseware.

Out of these discussions came the root of the effort that is now underway.

The newest state law passed, Senate Bill 2120 strikes the words books and textbooks and replaces them with the term instructional materials.

Each school district shall provide teachers, administrators, students, and parents access to a local instructional improvement system. The system must provide access to electronic and digital instructional materials and teaching and learning tools and resources, including the ability for and administrators to manage, assess, and track student learning.

Districts will have until 2014 to comply.

Unfortunately, the capital outlay for technology is expensive and the legislature needs to consider that fact when making appropriations.

But there’s good news in the mix.

$700 million in Federal Race To The Top money allocated to Florida will provide some of those needed funds.

The district also has an EXTREMELY UNDERPROMOTED program named Digital Divide.
Along with the district’s participation with Apple and content publishers, we actually began preparing parents and students that could not afford computers and donating refurbished and restored units that have been surplussed.

After qualifying for the program, parents and students must take a 3 hour course in order to verify their skills in using the machines.

The requirements of Senate Bill 2120 not only fall right in line with the Digital Divide program, but another district program named DETA or Digital Education Teacher Academy.

DETA has been providing teachers with skills for using technology in the classroom for almost ten years.

The district has been using digital courseware inside the classrooms for many years, long before either the Federal or State governments became aware of the need to move forward with technology.