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Free at Last

T.H.E. Journal Volume 36, Number 6, ISSN 0192-592X


When superintendent Calvin Baker of the Vail School District in Vail, Arizona, substituted laptops for textbooks in Vail's first 1-to-1 high school in 2005, he saw that his district now had the freedom to purchase digital content the way he purchased digital music. "People would say, "So, what digital textbook are you going to use?" and we'd say, "Well, we're not using a digital textbook.'" Baker says. "Why would we buy an entire textbook if we don't have to? When I want a song, I just go to iTunes and download the specific song I want. That's what we realized we could do at our [1-to-1] high school. Rather than buy a digital textbook, we could go out and find great material wherever we could and download just the pieces we needed." The idea of allowing teachers to design a customized digital curriculum "playlist" fit with the district's established instructional model, which was to create a curriculum tied to the exact terms of the state standards, rather than try to wedge the standards into the rigid structure of a textbook. Last year, Baker and his team moved that instructional strategy to the digital realm with the implementation of the districtwide Beyond Textbooks Initiative (BTI). Baker says the initiative has created an environment that has drawn teachers even farther away from the traditional sources of digital curriculum. Vail School District's Beyond Textbooks Initiative has caught the attention of neighboring districts looking for an alternative to standard digital content. David Woodall, superintendent of Arizona's Benson Unified School District, is in the initial stages of piloting BTI. For a small district like Benson, with about 1,100 students and 70 teachers, having access to the infrastructure and materials created by Vail is invaluable.


Demski, J. (2009). Free at Last. T.H.E. Journal, 36(6), 39-44. Retrieved December 7, 2019 from .

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