Digital Curriculum for CTE: 3 Big Problems Teachers Face
Are you considering transitioning to digital curriculum for your CTE program? While there are many benefits that teachers, students, and even administrators receive from using a digital CTE curriculum, there are some issues as well. When reviewing our eLearning curriculum, CTE teachers have expressed worry about some specific challenges such as:
- What if I don’t have enough computers in my classroom for every student?
- How do I keep students from cheating?
- Are maintenance and upgrades to the program a lot of work?
These are all valid worries, and we certainly understand that each one can make you wary of implementing technology in the classroom. In this article, I will discuss each these problems and also share how you can overcome them to successfully use digital curriculum.
Problem 1: Not Enough Tech for Each Student
For any teacher thinking about implementing technology in the classroom, the elephant in the room is a lack of computers for every single student. In an ideal situation, your school district has a one-to-one initiative which provides a device (laptop, Chromebook, iPad) to every student. Unfortunately, for a CTE program, devices aren’t necessarily on the top of the list when it comes to classroom items.
It’s understandable to think that without a device for each student using digital curriculum is a pipe dream. However, there are many teachers just like you who succeed with a less-than-perfect technology situation! Here are a few ways CTE teachers are making it work with limited access to technology in their classrooms:
Create Student Groups to Rotate Use of Computers
Many CTE instructors have computers in the classroom, but not enough for every student. This setup can still be perfect for anyone looking to use digital curriculum. A common approach teachers take with this scenario is to break students into 2 or more groups.
Because very often students will be working on hands-on skills, this group approach works perfectly for a CTE program. Each group uses the digital curriculum on shifted schedules. While one group is on the computers, the other students can complete hands-on projects, skills practice, or even classroom discussions.
Use a Computer Lab Once per Week
While having computers in your classroom is easier than going to the lab, having access to a computer lab is a pretty good setup. There are a number of teachers using the HealthCenter21 digital curriculum that only have access to computers once per week, but they are making it work!
If you are in the same boat, it’s very important to plan out your time in the lab to ensure students are productive while working on the computers. You will need to do some work to modify some of your lessons, but once you have it all planned out your weekly trip to the lab will become second nature.
Flip Your Classroom
"Flipping the classroom is such a great concept! I do that with a lot of my students and it has really worked out.
It has cut down on my lecture time, which I thoroughly enjoy... we get a little bit more into the meat and potatoes of everything."
-- Kozy Hubbard, Bartow High School, FL
Trying a new approach like flipping the classroom may seem like a stretch just so you can use digital curriculum. But some CTE teachers have found that the benefits of a flipped classroom greatly outweigh the fear. Flipping the classroom is a type of blended learning where students do classwork at home (in this case, the digital lessons are assigned as homework.) This leaves you to have more time during class for discussion and to have students practice hands-on skills development.
To learn how one teacher is succeeding with eLearning curriculum by using the flipped approach, read this article: 4 Benefits of a Flipped Classroom for CTE Courses
Problem 2: Students Cheat when using Technology
When using technology, it seems students keep finding ways to cheat in class. Teachers everywhere are trying to find ways to combat cheating without going back to strictly paper-based class work. Unfortunately, even that is not a magic solution for cheating, since students cheated long before digital curriculum came around.
What you can do though, is continue to reinforce responsibility and respect in your students when it comes to properly doing work. With the emergence of technology in the classroom and our changing culture, there is now a lot of content out there to help you teach good digital citizenship. Starting your course off with a class dedicated to digital citizenship is a great way to be up front about your policies and expectations.
Here are a few resources you can check out as a starting point:
- Business&ITCenter21 - Career Readiness & Digital Literacy Content
- Common Sense Education
- From Edutopia: 6 Digital Citizenship Resources for Educators
- Why High School Students Cheat & How Digital Curriculum Stops It
Still not convinced about the importance of digital citizenship curriculum for your CTE program? Read this article: CTE Curriculum and Digital Citizenship - Why You Need to Include It
Problem 3: Program Maintenance and Waiting on Upgrades
In working with thousands of CTE teachers across the country, we have heard it all when it comes to the woes of coordinating with your school IT staff. Using new technology introduces new concerns from you, your administration, and the IT staff. Because digital curriculum can vary in how it is provided maintenance and upgrading are different for each one.
So how can you avoid down time when your curriculum is being updated? A good starting point is to review the different types of digital curriculum options available for your courses. Two common types are server-based and cloud-based.
A server-based program that needs to be installed on your computer is going to be a lot of work for you and your IT staff. Because it is installed on the computer, it will require physical software upgrades that your IT people will definitely be involved with. During those upgrading times, you and your students won't be able to access the curriculum, so make sure you plan wisely!
A cloud-based eLearning curriculum does not involve any installation or special software to work. All you and your students need is access to the internet! Very often you can be up and running without even calling an IT person down to your classroom. Because eLearning curriculum is cloud-based, it is updated automatically (usually in the wee morning hours) and you and your students won’t have any down time.
Will Digital Curriculum Work for You?
Now that I’ve shared some ways you can overcome your worries about using digital curriculum, the big question in your mind is probably: How do I know it will work?
This is one of the most common questions from teachers and administrators across the country, and an important thing to consider before jumping in. Before choosing a new curriculum, it’s important to be sure it will truly make a difference in your classroom!
This article is a great starting point to help you make the final decision: Digital Curriculum: Will it Work? - A Teacher’s Perspective and Advice