In the 10,000-student Grand Island Public Schools district, digital learning allows students at all grade levels to immerse themselves in science projects. Kindergartners learn simple physics concepts by engineering their own pinball machines. Second graders are using properties of matter to be “glue engineers” and solve problems. Middle school students run computer simulations to learn about things like metabolism. They also have fictional “internships” where they work on solving real-world problems; one seventh grade student was so impressed with his solution that he wanted to tell the government of Sri Lanka about the tsunami warning system he created.
“Parents tell me their kids are proud because they are glue engineers, or they figured out what was wrong with the water supply in a city,” says Executive Director Information Technology Cory Gearhart. But engagement isn’t the only benefit of digital learning. “We’re never going to get away from books and that’s OK, that’s not the goal,” he says. “The goal is to meet every student where they are and deliver what the books can’t through the right media. We can now select the best resources available for our students. So by going with something like a universal device and getting content delivered in a universal way, we have flexibility and freedom.”
Plus, says Science Curriculum Coordinator Katie Ramsey, “With an online curriculum, we don’t have to wait seven years for textbook updates.”