Getting into Digital Curriculum

EdTECH monthly WEBINAR july 2021

For many schools, the decision to adopt digital curriculum can seem like a daunting undertaking. There are so many things to consider including where to begin, what devices to use, how to manage content, how to make content accessible to all students, and much more. In this informative webinar, we share the best practices on how to get started or how to introduce additional digital curriculum at your school.

Topics include:

  • Getting into Digital Curriculum
  • Steps to Get Started
  • Options to Consider
  • Recommendations for Expanding Digital Curriculum

Read the transcript below:

Getting into Digital Curriculum


Hello everyone. Thank you for joining us today for our Edtech Solutions Edtech Tuesday Teacher Training webinar, and my name is Lacey Wolfrey. I am very excited to introduce our curriculum specialist and team lead, Marc Blair. He will be leading us through today’s webinar. So I will go ahead and kick it over to you, Marc.


Thanks, Lacey. Welcome, everybody. I’m glad you all could join us today on this nice Tuesday. Today we are going to go through kind of getting into digital curriculum. Steps you need to take, options and resources that are out there, some of the tools, and just overall the things you need to think about when getting into digital curriculum. So today we’re really going to be looking at reasons to get into a digital curriculum, the first steps, some of the options that are out there, and our recommendations for getting started. So let’s just jump right in and go over the reasons to get into a digital curriculum.

Reasons to Get Into Digital Curriculum

The first one is that you’ll have all your books in one place. Students appreciate it, parents appreciate it. I know with COVID happening when my daughter had her digital experience, all the books were just right there at her fingertips to go through. They are easier to read and you can make notes. So unlike print books, with digital books, you can make the font bigger, smaller, and read through it in different ways. We’re going to show you a little bit of that momentarily.

You will also get the most up-to-date material from the publishers. There have been many times I’ve talked to schools that had books that were from the early 2000s, or sometimes even earlier, and a lot has changed. The requirements changed, recommendations have changed. A lot of parents know that math has changed. So with digital, you always get the most up-to-date and current material. It definitely will help your student be more prepared for the university, as a lot of universities at this point are using digital resources for their curriculum. I remember speaking to one of our interns one year, and he was the only one who came from a high school that used digital books. And so when he got to the university level, he was the only one who actually knew how to use the digital resources that were on there, the platforms that they were using, and he had to take the time and just show all the other students what they needed to do and what they needed to know, which made him way ahead of where everybody else was at.

And lastly, the reason is that there is more accessibility with digital. You can do more with the digital books. So for students who might learn a little bit differently, they are able to access and use the books in a way that they can learn in a better way and get a better experience for their classroom.

Steps to Going Digital


Now, with all that, there are steps to going digital. You don’t want to just call somebody up and say, give me a hundred digital books and hope that it works out for you and your students. First thing you got to take a look at are the devices you’re going to use. Are you going to use iPad? Are you going to use Chromebook? Are you going to use a MacBook? Are you use laptops? Are you going to use a bring your own device type system? All that’s going to play into what’s available to you and how you’re going to use it. If you have a bunch of parents and students who love iBooks, and think iBooks are the greatest thing since sliced bread, maybe don’t buy a bunch of Chromebooks for your school. You want to take a look at that, because those are going to highly limit what you can do, and what kind of resources are available to you. So take a look at the devices that are out there and what’s available to those devices, because it’s not all the same.

School Network Bandwidth

You do want to take a look at your school’s network, making sure that they can support everything that you want to use it for, for curriculum and for digital resources. We had a school give us a call one time and they ordered a bunch of digital books, and then a couple weeks later, we got another call from that same school, saying only half of the school could download their books and use their books at the time. And we jumped through many hoops and inspected so many different things of what was going on and hoping to try to help them, and it finally came out that their network wasn’t large enough. It did not have the capacity for all the students to read at the same time. So look at your network, talk to your network administrators, make sure they understand what you’re planning, and make sure you have enough bandwidth for all the different books, and ebooks, and those platforms that are out there.

Digital Security

Also take a look at the security, because if more things are online, there are more hackers available to jump in and figure it out. So make sure your security, your digital security are up to date.

Teacher Buy-In

The last thing you want to take a look at is teacher buy-in. The reason for that is you can buy all the devices, all the curriculum, get it all set, and make the whole thing beautiful and fluid, and it can be great. But if teachers don’t use it, you’re wasting a lot of money. So you want to make sure you get the teacher buy-in, even just a little bit of buy-in before making that investment, making sure that they feel comfortable. Nine times out of 10, teacher buy-in can be solved just with training and making sure they feel comfortable with the devices, and making sure they feel comfortable with the platforms. And EdTech definitely helps out with making teachers feel comfortable with the curriculum that’s out there.

Digital Options

So what is out there? There are many different things you want to take a look at with your digital options for it. And so I’m going to switch my screen and kind of show you what is out there.


The first thing you kind of are going to explore are just general ebooks. Ebooks are simply just the book online. It is not a special learning management platform, nothing like that. This is essentially just the book. And I’m going to open this one right here. And this is one of our Shelfit e-reader books that you can take a look at. And with it, you can see it is essentially a book. It does have some special features for learning and definitely the accessibility. We do have a text to speech option that can not only read it, but we’ll show you what’s being read as well. They can bookmark. You can make it bigger. Obviously you can make it smaller. And you definitely have learning tools like taking notes, creating flashcards, even citations. You can also highlight as well.

These are kind of your general ebook options. The accessibility for you and your students, they could take a look at. Ebooks are available with many, many different books and definitely different publishers that are out there. But, with it, just keep in mind, the ebook is just the book.

Online Platforms (Publishers)

The other thing you got to look at that are out there are these online platforms that are out there. And most publishers at this point have their own learning platform that are out there. This is Savvas. I’m not going to jump in and show you everything with Savvas that you can do. We have separate classes and actually, Lacey teaches those things, but just to get kind of a sense, it goes from the etext or the ebook, and then takes it a step further. You go into assessments, you get videos, you get quizzes, you get grading help. You can do assignments with it. There are way more options with these learning platforms. And of course each one’s going to be different. They’re not all going to look like this. Savvas is different than McMillan, which is different from HMH, which is different from Sadlier, which is different from everything else that is out there.

So just kind of keep that in mind with what is going on, especially with curriculum and what is out there. You got ebooks, you got online platforms.

Library Resources

You also have, let me get back to my presentation. You got library resources. We don’t necessarily do the library resources, but they are out there. So if you want to expand your library for students in an eText version would be a great option, because there are periodicals, there are more books, they can just download it to their devices and just read it. So those are out there.

Alternative Learning Resources

You also have alternative learning resources like Duolingo, you got NoRedInk. There’s a few others that are out there. Khan Academy, I know schools have used as well. So it’s goes beyond just the traditional publishers that have ebooks and their learning platforms. There are other things and other tools and resources that you can use for learning and for educating your students.

And one of the things that Edtech definitely helps out with is guiding you through that, because we work in so many schools and so many students, teachers are always asking us, is this good? Will this work? Have you heard of this? And we can help guide you, or at least find a resource that is using it or has used it in the past.


So one thing you do need to make sure you always remember is the more digital you use, the more complicated it will be. And you can kind of see it as you start talking about the different publishers that you might use and the different resources. I mean, if you’re using ebooks and the digital platforms with classrooms, and with students, and with students’ schedules, the complication becomes very, very big as you grow.

We Recommend to Start Small

So this is basically what we recommend is to start small. The reason we want you to start small is because it can get complicated, and it can get complicated really quickly. As the famous movie from What About Bob? You want to do baby steps into digital. You don’t need to go out there and purchase every single digital platform that you’ve ever seen, and hope that it works out, because you were going to have a horrible experience. And it’s going to just ruin, not only your day, it’s going to probably ruin your entire school year, doing something like that. Because again, you have different platforms. Each platform is set up differently. Each platform is used differently. Some platforms work better on other devices than others. I mean just a fact of life. So all those things you want to think about before jumping in, that is why we say start small.

Where to Start?

One of the easiest ways to start is just by doing Shelfit ebooks. Find some publishers, find some books that, you know you’re going to want this coming year, and then get them for a class. Get them for a few classes. Start out with a little bit, start out with a few teachers. Maybe just start out with the literature books so that an entire department feels comfortable, and you have buy-in from certain teachers before you roll it out to the entire school. It’s going to be easier for set-up with just starting with ebooks, because you’re not going to have to worry about codes and assigning books and a lot of username and passwords. It’s going to be, again, simple. Start out small. Remember those baby steps.

EdTech can help as you Grow

And as you grow, so will your library. We have plenty of schools that have literally 50, 60 different platforms and ebooks as well. And we put it all together, and we know it can be difficult, and we know it can be complicated. That’s kind of where we come in to make it easier for you and to make it easier for your school, and just simpler. And so that is essentially what I have for you all today about getting started with ebooks and what to do. I wasn’t sure if anybody had any questions.

Questions and Answers


Yeah. Thank you, Marc. At this point, we’d like to open it up to our participants. We have several on. Some of our current clients that work with us and also some new names out there. So we’d love to open it up for questions. If you have any questions you would like Marc to address regarding digital books, or whether it’s getting started, or you’ve already started and you’re feeling a little bit overwhelmed, or if there’s thing in the reader that Marc gave you a peek that you’d like to see, please use the chat feature and type any questions that you have. We’ll take those at this time.

All right. We’ve got a question for you, Marc. All right. So in the reader you mentioned some of the accessibility features, what are some of the other options that are available to help?


Okay. Let me just kind of show you. So some of the other options for helping with accessibility, First, you got the text to speech. You got different options, even within the text to speech. So you can actually change the voice, the speed of it, how it even sounds. So if you are from the south, you can actually use a Southern accent so that people can feel more comfortable with reading and understanding what is being read to them. You can slow the speed down. You can even speed it up. Obviously you can zoom in as much as you want to do that.

And let’s see what else we got. You have the study guides, you have the notes and highlights. You can do a collaboration. I can’t obviously do that, but you can do a way where students can kind of collaborate together, even within the book to kind of learn a little bit. There’s text to speech, you have keyboard shortcuts to help, and of course the flashcards. I think the flashcards are really, really cool. It’s a simple thing where you just basically highlight, and I’ll choose flashcard, and there you do. And you just type the back of it, whatever you want on the back.


So this is a great feature for students to be able to create flashcards then to use as a study guide. Teachers can use this as, you know, a deepen the understanding and have some things on there that they want to point out and have the students focus on and use for studying for quizzes or tests.


So you can see the flashcard. I just click on it. Did I get it right? Yes, I did apparently. And then you can go on to different ones. So students can actually do that with whatever they want within the text. It highlights whatever’s in the text. So it can be a definition, it can be a word, it can be a concept answer. However you see it being made. So those are those accessibility features. Really it’s more geared for making sure that people who might need it read slower, it can be read slower to them. For those who might not recognize all the words, you can change the accent to be like a Southern accent. Something like that so that those students can feel more comfortable in learning and understanding what is out there. Good question.


Yeah, that is really great. And I know a lot of schools that have ventured into the digital world with some of these dynamic ebooks, have had a lot of success, and it has made it possible for all students to have access to it, which is awesome. Now, for some of those schools who have gotten this far, they have kind of dabbled in some digital ebooks and that sort of thing, what then would be your recommendation for managing also, say they’ve grown too big. They’re like, great, we’ve got all this digital. Now what? What would be your recommendation for how to manage it all?


Well, if you are balancing and doing a bunch of… I’ll put it like this, if you don’t have a summer anymore because of ebooks and digital curriculum, and you spend your entire summer, either pulling out your hair and trying to figure out everything with publishers, with logins, and uploads and all that. It’s time to talk to EdTech at that point, because we simplify the whole thing to put it into one place.

I’ll go back to this, in our shelf you can see that the platforms are here, the ebooks are here. A lot of times we have a single sign on with the different publishers. So it’s just automatically goes over to a login. So you don’t have to worry about it. The other thing is just set up is gone with EdTech, because we take care of all the setup, and we would sync it up with your student information system, or maybe your learning management system, so that the books are there. We get the rosters directly imported. So set up, use is just 10 times easier for you.


Yeah. You mentioned the single-sign-on, and I know a lot of the schools that we work with love that aspect of it because they can go to one place and access all of their books. And it can get a little bit more complicated when you mentioned the SIS, and the LMS, and you’ve got things like Schoology and Canvas, and all of these great resources, but then the schools can get overwhelmed. So can you talk a little bit about how EdTech works with a lot of these other systems then to be able to manage it all in one place?


Well, we basically do a connection with those LMS and SISs so that the rosters talk to EdTech, the rosters are imported over into our world so we know what student gets what book. And we worked with the schools ahead of time to make sure that the schedules and the ebooks are all set. So we know when little Sally logs in, her books are going to be there on day one.


Awesome. And then one other thing I want to point out here, this view here is the Shelfit shelf. And so, you’ve got some of the books, like the sociology book that’s listed with that orange bar that is and ebook, like you demonstrated, it opens it up, it takes you into the ebook. And then you’ve got the blue bar there with the platform, and then can you talk a little bit about what that does? Because it’s not just going to be ebook, how does that get them to the platform?


Well, it’s not set up right now. If I click here, it’s just going to take me to an instruction area of what to do. So with that, it depends on the publisher, of course, but a lot of times what they’ll do is they’ll just click on the platform, and it’ll take them over directly into Pearson, or to TCI depending on the publisher that they’re using. So that single sign on allows for them to just click, it opens, it goes, and they can just read it on their device right away. So students aren’t logging back in and out.

I remember talking to one school, I think on the East Coast, they hired somebody else to do it, and they were talking to us about how we do it. They literally had a different log on for every single book. Like a different login and password here, a different login and password here, a different login and password. Everything had a different login and password regardless of the platform. So there were many students going in between classes logging out and logging in, even onto the same platform just to access their books. So with EdTech it’s all right there so that they can just easily log in. And so you have that, and then what we do really is make sure everybody’s login and status is just taken care of and easy for you.


Awesome. We’ve got some more great questions coming in the chat. One question is, do all schools have different LMS? Great question.


Do all schools have a different LMS?


Uh-huh (affirmative).


Yeah So, the popular ones that we hear the most about are Schoology and Canvas. Those are the two most popular LMS systems that we hear. Some will use Google classroom as their learning management system. Sometimes your student information system, like Blackbaud, and I think FACTS have their own kind of an LMS on the side. I think Blackboard is also another one. So yeah, there’s many different other ones. I would say Schoology and Canvas are the ones the two most popular that we run into.


Yes. We definitely see a lot. But great question. Another question is, can we click on a book and then read it to our kids from here? So an ebook.


So yeah, I mean. So, I mean, I don’t know if my sound is connected that you can hear, but yeah. You can click on a book, read it to your kids, or have it read to them. Does it work? Do you guys hear that?


No. So, if you were clicking on the book in person, the highlighted text would be reading out loud. It’s just not sharing through the audio.




Webinar. Yep. And then another follow-up question then is how do we accommodate each school platform?


How do we accommodate? I guess-


So I think I understand the question, so if there’s a different school platform, like you mentioned, many schools will use different publisher platforms. If that’s what the question is referring to, like if they’re using Pearson, or Savvas, or McGraw Hill. All of those would be listed together on the shelf. I don’t know if you want to expand on that.


Okay. Yeah. So if there’s different platforms, we still set up all the different platforms, regardless of the publisher. It would just show like this might be Savvas. This would be HMH. This would be McMillan. Then you have ebooks from other publishers. So we try to put all of them together into one place.


Hopefully that answered that question, if not, please feel free to add more to the chat there. Another question, which is a great question. When will the new iOS app release? I know that’s in the works. I don’t have a specific answer, but anything else in house and do a follow up once we have more information. But great question.


I don’t know that one either.


All right. But I do know that as in the works. Excellent. All right, we’ve got just a couple more minutes if anyone else has any questions, definitely appreciate the participation. All right, well, Marc, do you have anything else you wanted to share here?


No, we are here to help. We have schools contacting us even now saying, how do you set this up? I have a hundred different books and I don’t know what to do. Give us a call, shoot me an email. And I’ll put that back up. Take a look. So give me a call or email, let me know what you’re looking for, and we’ll definitely try to help you as best as we humanly possibly can. Our goal is always for day one readiness for all your books.


Absolutely. Well, thank you, again, everyone for joining us today. We’ll give you a few more minutes back to your day. We always appreciate you joining us for these webinars. The recording will be available. So if you had somebody that wanted to view this, we’ll be sending out an email with the recorded webinar. And if you’ve got anything that you’d like to see for future webinars, please let us know, we always want to make sure that these are content that are related to things that are appropriate for whatever is going on in the classroom with the teachers that we work with.

So thank you so much, and I hope you have a great rest of your day.


Thank you.

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