Is digital curriculum the future of education?

While Los Angeles schools are suspending the rollout of a $1 billion program that would give every student an iPad, former chancellor of New York City's Department of Education Joel Klein is focusing his efforts on expanding the use of technology and digital devices in schools throughout the country.

"What we're doing is really about curriculum, about sequencing learning, about saying to teachers, 'You know, this child is moving very quickly. This child is moving slowly. You should know that,'" Klein said Tuesday on "CBS This Morning."

Klein, who is now the CEO of Amplify, a company that develops digital curriculum for data-driven instruction, said in the case of Los Angeles schools and iPad distribution, projects at times have to be put on hold.

"They've gotten real improvements for kids in very challenging environments," he said. "Sometimes, you do a big thing and you have to hit the pause button. Not every big thing works exactly as you want it to work."

If integrated appropriately, Klein said technology is "really important" to the future of education in the United States.

"In and of itself, there's nothing magical about technology. What's magical is about teaching and learning," he said. "Our technology is all about teaching and learning. It's not replacing teachers. It's not about taking a textbook and digitizing it. What it is about is giving teachers the tools they need, the supports, the kind of things that the kids really want to get engaged."

From knowing how much feedback students are receiving in the classroom to identifying students who are struggling with vocabulary, Amplify aims to inform educators through data collected by the digital curriculum.

Klein acknowledged there is a risk to giving teachers too much data about their classroom.

"I think you want to give data that's helpful. Remember, this is about helping and empowering teachers to do their work better. If you flood them, it's going to be utterly useless," he said. "If you give them data that says, for example, you've mastered 300 words this semester, I've only mastered 150. You need to make sure Joel gets his vocabulary up, that's helpful. If you give him long papers and charts, it's not going to work. Let's be smart about what we're doing. Let's make sure we get teachers behind it."

He said his company's products were developed with teachers and students.

"We play test it. We try it out. We learned so much that way," Klein said.

Critics have cited studies that show people who read on a device are less likely to remember information than reading a book.

Klein said the solution is "very simple."

"You give them quick assessments, right there, built in," Klein said.

Through their own studies, Amplify found ways to engage students and improve their level of attention dramatically.

"If you simply put them in front of a tablet or in front of a computer, it's not going to work," Klein said. "That's why I think the hype is not helpful. I think the thoughtful work has to take place."

  • Jean Song

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