Online toolkit helps schools select content-rich instructional materials


State, district and school leaders can now turn to a comprehensive online toolkit to help navigate their selection of content-rich instructional materials.

The toolkit, released Feb. 9 by the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA), offers research, resources and case studies to support selection of quality instructional materials for learning. Educators can use the toolkit to establish and maintain vetting processes for print and digital resources.

SETDA defines quality instructional materials as those aligned to standards that are fully accessible and free from bias, and which support sound teaching and assessment practices that help teachers understand and interpret student performance.

The toolkit was developed in collaboration with state and district digital-learning leaders, including instructional-materials coordinators and academic officers and leaders from the private sector. Its basic format identifies and explains the key steps in this process: planning, budget, selection, implementation and effectiveness.

According to the guide, “From Print to Digital: Guide to Quality Instructional Materials,” when considering digital instructional materials, leaders need to be sure that the materials will be easily and seamlessly accessible for all learners. The digital version of materials also should leverage technology tools and resources so that it is dynamic, interactive and engaging, the guide states.

The new guide “will help ensure that digital materials implemented in our classrooms, and across the country, are high quality and aligned to state standards,” said Joy Hofmeister, state superintendent of public instruction for Oklahoma’s Education Department.

Key considerations, questions and helpful hints are included throughout the guide. It also includes best-practice examples from states and districts as well as national, state and local resources to take into account when choosing instructional materials.

Complementing the toolkit is a new online community of practice designed to give policy makers, school administrators and educators a better understanding of policies and practices related to digital instructional materials.

Sponsored by SETDA, “Essential Elements for Digital Content” serves as a platform for dialogue about the shift to digital materials, including topics such the vetting process, accessibility, professional learning, procurement, implementation and infrastructure.

“States have the ability to provide leadership for local education agencies and schools regardless of state procurement policies so that every student has access to quality materials for learning,” said Tracy Weeks, executive director SETDA, the national nonprofit association representing the interests of U.S. state and territorial educational technology leadership.

Commenting on the toolkit, Tom Torlakson, state superintendent of public instruction for the California Education Department, said that every student deserves access to high-quality instructional materials to best prepare for college and careers.

“As our educational ecosystem shifts to digital learning, now more than ever it is critical to provide guidance for states, districts, schools and teachers to support the implementation of standards based, quality instructional materials,” he said.