education's digital future

possibilities of digital curriculum

As textbooks and associated learning resources go digital, the meaning of “curriculum” is in flux. Digital delivery raises large new intellectual-property questions. At the college level, curricular products have been fairly cleanly divided between published material such as textbooks, which are considered intellectual property, and syllabi, which are akin to culinary recipes—informally shared and changed by multiple users for free. All of this is changing.

Several large trends are shaping developments in digital curricula: the open educational resources (OER) movement; e-texts which link and integrate multiple media, and a new ecosystem of education service providers.

Many new interactive tools for learning and teaching have been developed recently. They include micro-worlds for learning computational thinking; mobile sensors and “probeware” for capturing and graphing data during scientific inquiry; data visualization web environments; scientific inquiry support environments in biology, chemistry and physics; K-12 intelligent tutoring systems; and educational robotics. Coupled with the new Common Core Standards in mathematics and forthcoming Next Generation Science Standards, many are optimistic about the prospects of deeper learning for all our diverse students. Yet large questions remain. Who will maintain the rights to new digital curricula? What is the purchase relationship between digital devices and digitally distributed curricula? Is the textbook defunct?


This forum assembled four experts to explore key questions concerning the evolution of digital curricula. Speakers included Catherine Casserly (CEO, Creative Commons); Tom Vander Ark (former Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Managing Partner at Learn Capital and author of Getting Smart: How Digital Learning is Changing the World); Prasad Ram (Founder and CEO of Ednovo, a non-profit education company that develops Gooru, a search engine for learning); and Steve Midgley, Consulting Adviser to the US Department of Education and former Deputy Director of Education Technology, USDoE.