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Textbooks will be history in 833 social studies classes

Starting next year, District 833 middle schools will be trading in their social studies textbooks for computers.

All resources used by teachers to deliver social studies content will be 100 percent digital next year, said Randi Anderson, District 833 director of Teaching and Learning Services.

"We're transitioning from a paper environment to a digital environment," Anderson said. "It is our job to produce a 21st century student."

The switch to digital social studies curriculum is part of District 833's new "Transforming Thinking through Technology," or T3, initiative.

"We're talking a shift of media," said Andrew Baldwin, District 833 technology director. "The problem we had with analog media was that it wasn't adaptable - it lacks the flexibility to customize."

Talking T3

T3 developed last year out of the district's strategic plan as a way of increasing student learning and engagement through technology.

"We were looking at where our highest needs were in the district and how we could help serve our students better," Anderson said

Thanks in large part to a one- time pilot funding allotment from the state, District 833 began implementing several technology-driven initiatives, including digital content, the use of iPads at several schools throughout the district and the availability of iPads to all of its pre-kindergarten students.

"It's about transformation of delivery of what they're learning," Anderson said. "It's helping provide them with better opportunities to learn."

The new initiative will leverage technology to focus on what the district calls the "Four Cs" -- communication, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking -- while aiming to personalize the learning experience for students.

Going digital

In terms of the all-digital social studies content, Anderson said the biggest benefit will be that students not only have the opportunity to review content remotely, without having to carry a heavy textbook everywhere, but they will also have access to a lot more interactive and up-to-date information, Anderson said.

"It'll provide opportunities for collaboration globally," she said.

Over the next couple years, Anderson said the district will be working to bring digital social studies content to the high schools and to incorporate digital content in other subject areas.

Addressing the achievement gap

Anderson said the biggest component of T3 will be the addition of iPads.

In addition to allowing all pre-kindergarten students access to iPads, the devices will also be provided to all students at five of the district's schools with the highest achievement gaps - Crestview Elementary, Newport Elementary, Pullman Elementary, Oltman Middle School and Park High School.

"We're going to provide them with 24/7 content and knowledge so that they can become creators of content, rather than just consumers of content," Anderson said. "It's not about the device, it's about the ability to personalize learning."

Anderson said the use of iPads at the schools will not only allow students to be actively engaged in their learning, the devices will provide students with unique opportunities to produce assignments and learn.

"This will allow students to self-pace,"she said.

Anderson said it will still be a few years before the district will see whether or not student achievement improves based on the T3 initiative, but other benefits will be immediately visible.

"What you will see immediately is increased engagement," she said.

"Research shows that there are more connections that are made," Oltman Middle School Principal Becky Schroeder said.

The district is hoping to one day provide personal mobile devices to all its students, according to the district website.

"That's the wave of the future," Schroeder said. "The kids are already bringing that technology in. When you research, you're not going to the media center to research anymore, you're going on Safari."

More information on District 833's "Transforming Thinking through Technology," or T3 initiative, can be found at

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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