Friday, January 10, 2014

Selecting Instructional Materials

Last night I hosted a Vendor Showcase for Instructional Materials Proclamation 2014.

For those of you non-Texas readers here's some explanation:

Each year the Texas Education Agency (TEA) issues a call for instructional materials (print and digital resources) in specific subject areas. Vendors submit their products and whichever meet the criteria are put on a list that schools can adopt new materials from. In the past, these were only print textbooks. In 2011 the Texas Legislature combined the Textbook fund and Technology fund to make the Instructional Materials Allotment which gives schools more flexible in the types of materials they can purchase for instruction. Each school district has their own policy on selecting the materials and only one set of materials is selected so all teachers use the same product in their school. This year's subjects included K-8 Math, K-12 Science and Technology Applications. Based on the rotation, these subjects will not be up for adoption again for nearly a decade and all of these areas have had their Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) Standards revised since the last materials adoption.

So selecting instructional materials is a really serious decision! You have to consider many variables to pick the best products for your teachers and students. These materials will cost money. And you will be using these things for 10 years! Then let's add the fact that publishers are offering print materials, CDs, web resource access, subscriptions, consumables, manipulatives...Yikes!!! As one of our attendees put it last night, "I'm overwhelmed! There are so many choices!"

Here are few things to think about as you mull over your options:

Digital, print, or a combination?

What is your student access to technology? Are you 1:1? Tablets? Laptops? BYOD? Shared computer labs? A couple of computers in each classroom?

What is your connectivity? Wired? Wireless? Plenty of bandwidth? Barely enough bandwidth for teacher computers?

What is the student connectivity at home? Do they have home computers? Are they connected to the internet only at school? Only on their mobile devices?

How quickly will the information change? Will the print books be quickly out of date? Math and Language Arts books may not change as quickly, but in Science and Social Studies you may be teaching out of books with incorrect information in a short period of time.

Is the product something I can use for the next decade and be happy with? What supporting materials are available? Audio files? Video files? Interactive games?

Do I have an interactive board that will make these resources more powerful? Is there a plan to purchase more technology in the near future?

Decisions?! Decisions!? Decisions?!

Selecting materials takes lots of thought and consideration. Don't pick something cute and trendy today and have buyer's remorse in a few years. Take the time and planning to consider all of the options, talk to all stakeholders, and understand the weight of this decision.

Good luck in selecting your instructional materials!


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