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Tablet computers such as these will be more common in Florida classrooms.

Classroom 2.0: Why Florida Schools Are Going Digital

Background

Schools across the country are contemplating a technology overhaul to meet new, tougher education standards adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia, known as Common Core. Those standards take effect in the fall of 2014.

And Florida schools face a second deadline: By the fall of 2015, half of classroom instruction must use digital materials.

Advocates argue access and customization are the biggest advantages to digital instruction. Students often find digital instruction more engaging — pull out those smart phones and Wi-Fi enabled iPods, students — and the materials can be more interactive and easily updated.

Critics argue there’s often no evidence that digital instruction is more effective, and school districts may be wasting money on ineffective, shiny gizmos. Education business analyst Lee Wilson argues digital textbooks on the iPad can cost more than five times as much as a traditional textbook and require additional management and training for effective use.

But Florida lawmakers believe in the advantages of digital learning and have required schools to deliver half of their instruction digitally beginning in the fall of 2015. The state requires students to take one online course in order to graduate high school. Florida students are also more likely to take a standardized test on a computer than in other states.

The adoption of these policies is due in no small part to former Gov. Jeb Bush, who has advocated across the country to incorporate more technology in education. Bush and former West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise started Digital Learning Now!

Technology developers are moving faster than researchers can test the effectiveness of their products. But, they say those in the classroom can tell which products are working and which ones aren’t.

As more teachers who grew up using cell phones, iPads and other devices move into the classroom, experts say they’re more likely to incorporate those devices into their lessons.

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