What Attributes Are Important When Selecting Digital Resources?

Earlier this month, Knovation released the results of a National Survey on Digital Content & Curriculum that asked 141 educators and administrators across the country which attributes of a K-12 digital curriculum strategy are most important to them.

One of the key findings provides guidance on what to focus on when selecting digital resources—when asked about the importance of attributes related to the process of selecting digital resources to purchase, educators prioritized the ones that focus on the alignment of the resources to specific district needs. Educators want to purchase digital resources that directly align with district initiatives, district curriculum documents and state standards. Each district wants to purchase digital resources that are highly personalized to its own needs and that will help students be successful in the classroom.

The implications of these findings are that the selection of digital resources should be driven by a school district’s priorities. Districts should choose and implement solutions that match digital resources directly to their curriculum documents (specifically district pacing guides and curriculum maps), creating an embedded collection of resources that are customized specifically to match the district’s student achievement goals.

When selecting digital resources to purchase, districts should make sure the resources are aligned to Common Core and state standards. Districts that have aligned their curriculum to the Common Core should verify the alignment between the resources for English Language Arts and Mathematics and the Publishers’ Criteria for the Common Core. Districts should also choose solutions that align well with their primary district initiatives (e.g., 1:1 environment, blended learning, print-to-digital transition, data-driven instruction, etc.).

For more details, please download the full report.

What Attributes Make Web-based Content Educational?

The Knovation Content Team asks this question daily as we rigorously evaluate exemplary web-based resources that can potentially be used during daily instruction, teacher planning and professional development. We answer that question through the lens of a Knovation quality content rubric. Each resource is evaluated against five instructional categories: Degree of Alignment to the Standards, Alignment to Daily Instruction, Cognitive Effectiveness / Deeper Knowledge, Quality of Instructional & Practice Exercises, and Structure.


In a recent national survey conducted by Knovation, we asked educators and education administrators across the United States to rank a set of attributes with regard to rigor and quality, along with the attributes that are most important to them as they purchase and use digital resources for daily instruction. The results below confirm that the attributes that are most important to educators and education administrators tightly aligned to the Knovation content quality rubric attributes.


Degree of Alignment to Standards – The respondents ranked this as the most important attribute when they are organizing learning resources and aligning them to district curriculum


Alignment to Daily InstructionEducators want digital resources that 1) Are in a format that makes it easy for teachers to implement in daily instruction and 2) Have a clearly defined instructional purpose


Cognitive Effectiveness / Deeper Knowledge – Educators responded that effective digital resources 1) Have clearly defined instructional purpose and 2) Have varied depth of knowledge levels (from recall to extended thinking)


Quality of Instructional & Practice Exercises – The survey respondents stated that quality and rigorous digital resources 1) Include multiple strategies to meet student learning styles 2) Provides learner differentiation (based on learner characteristics) and 3) Include opportunities for remediation for students who are struggling


Structure – It’s important to educators that digital resourcesprovide instructional differentiation (based on the way the material is presented, instructional style)


How Do You Evaluate Digital Content?

What are the attributes that are most important to you when purchasing and organizing digital resources to be used in daily instruction? How do you determine what makes a website a good educational resource that will meet all of your instructional needs?

National Digital Content & Curriculum Survey Findings

Summary of Results and Implications for School Districts Released

As districts are shifting from traditional textbooks to digital content to provide more relevant and more personalized learning experiences for their students, they are faced with revising their resource selection process. No longer can they look to a single publisher or content provider to deliver the wide range of instructional materials they need to address college- and career-ready standards and support their individual students’ learning needs.

To understand which attributes of a K-12 digital curriculum strategy are most important to educators and administrators as they embark upon the process of acquiring new digital content, Knovation conducted a National Digital Content & Curriculum survey this spring. The summary of results and key implications for school districts were announced in a press release today.

Key Areas of Digital Curriculum Strategy Addressed

The report reveals what is most important to educators across the U.S. as they implement their digital curriculum strategy and how school districts can leverage that information, in the following areas:

  • Selecting digital resources to purchase
  • Ensuring quality and rigor of digital resources
  • Organizing learning resources and aligning them to district curriculum
  • Prioritizing learning object attributes

Download the summary of results to read the key implications for school districts.

What other attributes are critical for you to consider as you plan your digital curriculum strategy and select digital content for your district?

5 Tips to Find the Right Ed-Tech Partner

Five critical points every district should consider when choosing an ed-tech partner

Our chief academic officer, Steve Nordmark, recently contributed an article on the eSchool News site, where he shared five critical points every district should consider when choosing an ed-tech partner. As many schools are transitioning from print-based instruction to digital curriculum, there are so many products, vendors and resources available. How can you decide what will work best for the teachers and students in your district?

 Consider these 5 tips:

  1. Create a clear vision for your transformation.
  2. Develop a plan that supports your vision and curricular objectives.
  3. Search for partners that can address multiple challenges.
  4. Identify partners that can assist with current and long-term needs.
  5. Choose a partner with proven results.


You can view the article on eSchool News in its entirety here:
Five tips to find the right ed-tech partner for your school district.


5 Challenges for School Districts

We conduct research interviews throughout the school year with K-12 educators and administrators as a continued effort to understand what is most important to school district leaders, including the initiatives that receive top priority in their districts and the main challenges their districts are facing. Over the course of these conversations, we identified 5 challenges that school districts of all sizes are experiencing.

1. Teacher Readiness & Training

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Ensuring that all teachers have the necessary training on resources that are available to them, and more specifically – finding the time to train their teachers, is a huge challenge for school districts. Teachers need to have the proper knowledge in place so they can most effectively use resources and methodologies to impact learning.

The director of technology at a large district in Florida tells us, “We are trying to provide the resources teachers need for the change, as far as how they are instructing students. We’re trying to make sure teachers have access to online training materials that will assist them with that.”

A 5th grade math teacher at a small district in North Carolina shares her view of training from a teacher perspective: “We’re very lucky that we keep a lot of the same teachers. For anyone who’s new, I can’t imagine walking into this district and trying to keep up with all of the trainings we’ve had over the last 5-7 years. We have certain things in place we use. We’re so used to having used it for the past umpteen years. If someone new comes in, it’s overwhelming.”

Finding the time to train teachers is also a challenge for a technology integrator at a school in Connecticut. Once her district finds a solution, they need to get substitute teachers to fill in so they can take their teachers out of class to train them.

2. Budget

Budget is frequently mentioned as an issue for school districts when we talk about the challenges and barriers they face. Although this is not new and will most likely continue to be a challenge over the years, it is worth mentioning in the context of this conversation.

For a technology integrator in Connecticut, budget is always an issue “because you have to pick and choose which pieces you want.” There is only so much money allocated for digital resources and programs, and districts want to get the best parts of those solutions for their teachers and students – sometimes this means only purchasing certain parts of a solution rather than the entire package.

Simply raising the funds needed for resources is a challenge for a Catholic school in Kentucky. This school also has difficulty deciding how to allocate the funds once they receive them.

3. Digital Divide

There exists a digital divide in many districts, where some students have greater access to technology away from school than others (such as wifi, laptops, tablets and smartphones they can use at home or on the go).

This unequal access to technology presents a unique issue. A library media specialist is finding that they can’t require certain technology in a BYOD program or when students are at home because not every student or parent has the ability to purchase what the district wants to require. She says, “We have some schools in low-income neighborhoods and those parents don’t have internet access.”

When students and parents in a district don’t all have the same level of access to technology outside the classroom, teachers need to look for ways to modify assignments and balance the use of technology in and out of the classroom to level the playing field and ensure that all students are able to learn effectively.

4. Solutions Don’t Work Together

Teachers want all of their online resources and programs to work together seamlessly, without any glitches. They want to be able to easily move from one application to another without having to log in and out multiple times.

A technology integrator shares with us, “At my school, the teachers are very receptive to technology. They welcome it and they are eager when I approach them with a new tool or device to make it a little easier. Sometimes it’s frustrating if bits and pieces work in isolation – you need to go to this browser for this, et cetera. I get the most response from teachers if a solution is all-inclusive.”

It’s encouraging to hear that teachers are receptive to new tools and devices, and it makes sense that teachers see more value in these new things if they all work together and are easy to use.

5. Teachers Have Multiple Responsibilities

Teachers feel overwhelmed with all of the responsibilities they have, both in and out of the classroom, related to their teaching careers.

A district instructional technology specialist at a large district in North Carolina tells us that teachers “have so much other stuff to do – grading and attendance program, Power Teacher, Common Core State Standards and so many tests, that sometimes it feels like they don’t have any time to actually teach the students.”

The first step to helping teachers manage their responsibilities to enable them to effectively impact students is to acknowledge everything they do and thank them.

What are your district’s challenges?

Feel free to add a comment below about the challenges in your district. Is your district experiencing the same things mentioned in this article? What other challenges are you facing in your district? Was there anything in this article that surprised you (and why?)?

Along with these challenges districts are experiencing, the educators and admins we spoke with also shared some key initiatives that are happening in their districts. Learn about their key district initiatives in this post: 5 Key District Initiatives.

5 Key District Initiatives


In our continued efforts to understand what is most important to school district leaders, including the initiatives that receive top priority in their districts and the main challenges their districts face, we conduct research interviews with K-12 educators and administrators throughout the school year. Over the course of these conversations, we identified 5 key initiatives across districts of all sizes.

1. 1:1 Environment

The goal of moving toward a 1:1 environment is becoming more prevalent as districts across the nation work diligently to prepare their students to take the Common Core assessments, which will be delivered online. Districts want to make sure they have the necessary technology and infrastructure in place, along with the proper training of teachers and students, so that students can complete the Common Core assessments online without confusion or glitches.

Many districts are piloting particular devices, like iPads, in a 1:1 environment with certain grade levels (i.e., elementary school or grades 5-12), learning as they go and then rolling out the 1:1 program for the rest of the district after revising their plan to avoid the mistakes they encountered with the initial pilot program.

When teachers and administrators talk about creating a 1:1 environment in their schools and districts, many mention that they are incorporating a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) component.

Teachers love the enhanced aspects of personalized learning that are made possible by providing every student with a device: “It’s amazing and powerful that the iPad can be tailored to each individual student’s needs. It frees up the teacher to work on higher level thinking or students who need to be pushed or need extra support. Instead of doing flash cards with a student, the iPad can do that with a student. Students give feedback so they know what they’re doing correctly and incorrectly.” (Technology Integrator, CT)

2. Common Core & Curriculum

There is an emphasis in school districts on the shift from teaching the existing state standards (which are specific to each individual state) to teaching the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in ELA and mathematics.

Districts are engaging their teachers in professional learning workshops to prepare them for this shift, by helping them to find resources that are better aligned to the true intent of the CCSS. District administrators are working with teachers to update curriculum maps with these CCSS-aligned resources.

The “massive amount of testing that’s going to be required” by the Common Core is a huge concern for a teacher in California.

A technology integrator in Connecticut says, “Now testing will take a different route on computers or iPads – making sure students have the proper skills to take assessments using technology is another big discussion.”

3. Blended Learning

With the vast array of digital resources that are available, districts are encouraging their teachers to incorporate a blending learning model into their instruction. Blended learning is seen as a mixture of learning in a physical building (school classroom) and learning in an online environment.

An eLearning Specialist in Georgia shared his district’s understanding of blended learning with us: “Taking the best of online learning and the best of classroom learning and combining them to provide the best experience possible for the student. It extends the classroom beyond time and space, and it makes the curriculum available 24/7.”

At that large district in Georgia, one of the Spanish teachers who teaches Spanish 1 and 2 courses has students enrolled at 6 of the district’s high schools. The course content is delivered through an online platform, and most of the students have worked out with their counselors the best time for them to take the course.

The key to successful blended learning, according to a 5th grade math teacher in North Carolina, is to find the balance between using the computer and paper/pencil. It’s taken her several years to find the balance of teaching math with computers, and now she is in a comfortable place with how she has blended the learning for her students.

4. Print to Digital Transition

Along with the previous three trends, the overarching vision of a print to digital transition is present in today’s schools. Districts are at varying places in their transition to completely digital content, and some are moving at faster paces than others.

An instructional technology coach in a smaller Pennsylvania district uses specific programs and sites to find learning resources, and teachers can add any resources they find to the district’s learning management system.

Another district doesn’t really have text books anymore. The curriculum teams show the teachers where they can integrate content from their programs where they have subscriptions.

5. Data-Driven Instruction

With more data available to teachers, it is becoming easier to adapt instruction based on what the data shows.

“The teacher can immediately have the data and know that 90% of the students got the concept and 10% didn’t – and then they know they need to differentiate for the students who didn’t get it.”

Methods of collecting data range from traditional clickers to various iPad apps. Regardless of the data collection method, “More and more, data collection is becoming more prevalent – teachers need to collect data on everything students are doing.”

What are your district’s initiatives?

Feel free to add a comment below about the initiatives in your district. Is your district focusing on the same things mentioned in this article? What other initiatives are main areas of focus for you and your district? Was there anything in this article that surprised you (and why?)?


Along with these key district initiatives, the educators and admins we spoke with also shared the greatest challenges in their districts. Learn about their challenges in this post: 5 Challenges for School Districts.

Learning is about making connections …

This morning I had a chance to sit in a 5th grade class …

And I was impressed …

The students came in, followed the directions on the ActivBoard, and did not make much noise at all …

So I just sat and watched trying to figure out what was going on …

I mean we only have 2 weeks of school left and this was not what I expected …

But I think that is it …

It was what the teacher expected …

She had established high expectations …

And students lived up to them!

After the students unpacked, they each brought their science homework to the teacher who was sitting at the back table. The teacher quickly checked over the homework, and shared quick comments with each student. If a student needed to make a correction, she was able to ask individual questions to help the student realize what needed to be done, as well as provide teaching examples to guide thinking. This was done in a positive way in a low voice. The teacher had a sheet to keep track, so she knew exactly who she had seen and who needed to still come back to see her.

When I taught 4th grade, I remember asking students to place their homework or reading logs on their desks, and I walked around the room to check them. I think I was trying to minimize the amount of students movement around the room, but that meant that I had to move all around and keep track of where I had and had not been. I think I collected papers and checked them at a later time, which did not really allow students to know right away what they had correctly or incorrectly done.

Sitting in that 5th grade classroom this morning prompted me to really reflect and think about what I did as a teacher …

And how I would hopefully do things different if I go back into a classroom …

I was impressed with how calmly and quietly the students moved through the space and accomplished the needed tasks …

Maybe a reason for the calm was the teacher was in one place and not moving …

Maybe a reason for the calm was the low level of the teacher’s voice …

(that is something I am still not good at)

Maybe a reason for the calm was the established expectations …

(I know that must be a big part of the reason)

And I was really impressed with the learning conversations that were happening with individual students …

The focus of the learning conversation with each student was only that student and what he or she needed to move the learning ahead …

I wonder what I can learn from my morning in this 5th grade classroom and apply to what I do …

The need for clear expectations The need for me, as the teacher or facilitator, to minimize my movement to help set a tone for the room … or at least to have a purpose for the movement in the environment The need to focus on each individual instead of the group as a whole all the time The need for relationships and learning conversations I would like to think that the professional learning/ professional development sessions I have done recently have been more like learning conversations with contributions from all as opposed to me just standing in front of the room ….

Learning is about making connections …

And establishing relationships can help make those connections …

I think those are goals or areas of focus for me …

What are some goals or areas of focus for you?

Posted on our original Blog site by Melissa-Edwards

Joy Spotting

As I am reflecting on all the teachers I appreciate for Teacher Appreciation Week, I feel blessed. In our work here at Knovation, we get a chance to experience the great joy that comes from working with creative teachers that are transforming learning in their classrooms. This led me to think, what can I do to show appreciation for teachers in my life and as I am working with them? It seems to me that as educators, we have a good sense of what transformation looks like and good guidance on coaching through the professional work we’ve done, are we doing a good job of highlighting or lifting up those things that educators are doing well all around us? Are we effectively spotting their joy?

One of the most helpful things you can do to show appreciation is to spot their joy.

There have been times when someone has pointed out how passionate I am about a certain topic or approach. Their observation will always lead me to examine my current focus and priorities, making sure that I make more time for what is working so well for me. To have someone acknowledge my joy and reflect it back to me is an intense reminder that I am doing the work that is most meaningful to me. It makes me feel more joyful that I am able to share that joy in ways that are meaningful to other educators.

In a time of the accountability form of observation, I believe the most powerful form of observation is joy spotting – catching and commenting on someone experiencing their joy.

Don’t we all get enough advice and criticism (even the constructive type)? Don’t we as parents sometimes just acknowledge what is working and bear witness to it? Can we provide that witness to our fellow educators doing what is working, what is right for our learners? So, let’s all try to “spot” a teacher this week and recognize them…

Spot someone and say:

You light up when you talk about that… You seem so happy when… Your whole body language changes when you talk about… The first thing you wanted to talk about was… You get so excited when… You’re on fire when… You’re unstoppable when…

You are changing hearts and minds when…

Thank you fellow educators – keep up the amazing work you are doing for kids. I can tell you right now your impact cannot be measured by my mere words of gratitude. Maybe, just maybe, someone will spot you in your joy and give you a chance to see what many of your learners, parents and colleagues already see.

Posted on our original Blog site by Dawn Crawford, M. Ed.

My First Pinterest Learning Party!

Earlier this school year, a comprehensive survey was done of students, staff, and community for the school system. While looking at the results, my boss at the time (he is not anymore) noticed something interesting …

When teachers were asked about their use of technology … Pinterest was the third most popular answer (behind email and facebook I think).

He shared that information with me in hopes that we might be able to use that information in some way …

Teachers are told to find out things they students enjoy and meet them where they are ….

So I took on the challenge (somewhat self-imposed) of figuring out how to use the teacher interest in Pinterest to a learning advantage ….

So I started thinking about ways to connect Pinterest and learning …

What do people do on Pinterest?

They search for ideas …

They share ideas …

They decide which ideas to keep (pin) and which to pass …

Then I started to see some connections!

What do we want for our students to do?

We want them to search for ideas (research).

We want them to share ideas (effective communication in various forms)

We went the to look at ideas and resources with a critical eye to determine which ones are credible and which ones are not (analyze and evaluate)

Do you see the connections?

I started having some ideas about the discussion we could have …

But I had to figure out a way to get people to come to staff development …

I did not want it to be a required one because it would not meet the needs for all, and I wanted the people there to actually be there because they wanted to be …

When I visit teachers and sit in on meetings, I almost always hear people sharing what they found on Pinterest …

So I decided to have a Pinterest Learning Network Sharing Party!

I created digital invitations and individually emailed them to teachers at the schools I work with as well as to my coworkers. I also sent the invite to others to share and had it posted on the technology blog for our school system.

(The Big, Bad Weather Monster hit and the party had to be rescheduled, so I also developed an online way to share ideas for those who could not attend, but that is another story)

I tried to create a welcoming environment by moving the tables into a circular shape (rather than straight rows) to encourage sharing. I scattered yellow paper in different sizes on the tables in case anyone wanted to make a quick note (I know we can take digital notes too but I was trying to be helpful and it made the tables looks better).

Since Easter was approaching, I put large handfuls of Easter Candy on the tables too! And the closer you got to the front of the room, the better the candy!

And no Pinterest Party would be complete without a snack made from a recipe found on Pinterest! (I even used Spring-colored M&Ms in my S’more Bags)

In my mind, people would go up to the computer and show the websites, activities, or pins they had to share … I even made a sign up board!

That did not happen …

But it was so much better!

Once we got going (the candy helped with that), teachers were sharing resources and ideas. With a little bit of guidance from me, we started talking about how we search for what we are looking for and how we decided what to keep(pin).

It did not matter what grade or subject you taught, ideas were flying. There were K teachers sharing things that gave 5th g teachers some ideas. They shared the types of things they liked finding as well as how the found certain things. I asked a few questions about how they decided what things to add to their pin boards and why they chose what they did.

There was even one person there just to see what we were doing since he had not really used Pinterest before. Teachers shared helpful hints and strategies for ways to not get overwhelmed as well as ideas for keeping your pin organized (I listened very closely to this part since I need more help with that).

The Pinterest Party that day started with teachers who did not really know each other, but I think it ended with a community of sharers who look forward to the next time!

We all learned something and were inspired to try something new or in a new way ….

One of the things I learned was to start the ball rolling and then get out of the way to let the real learning happen … even if it doesn’t go according to my plan!

A Focus on Two Special Learners

April is Autism Awareness Month – How do we build agency in these special learners?

Are we considering how special learners….
process visual information?
process auditory information?
process text based resources?
engage with learning based on one type of input?
respond to different learning management environments and approaches?
are motivated and equipped to work through their learning struggles themselves?

Light It Up Blue is a unique global initiative that kicks-off Autism Awareness Month and helps raise awareness about autism. In honor of this historic day, many iconic landmarks (including the Empire State Building), hotels, sporting venues, concert halls, museums, bridges, retail stores and hundreds of thousands of homes and communities will Light It Up Blue. Know New Ideas will be Blue as well as we share ideas and inspiration for our special learners. In honor of Autism Awareness, we would like to introduce you to two very special learners that are a part of the Knovation and Know New Ideas family. These two learners are on very different paths to own and drive their learning and success….

Meet Linsey

On the outside, she looks like the typical teen. Her education was sidetracked by the myth that if you look normal, you must learn normally. She spent years of her education being ignored or bullied because of unique learning needs. By the time Linsey was in high school, she decided to proactively engage in educating others about unique learners like herself. Because of Linsey’s courage and conviction, she is able to help others better understand how she, and others like her, learns best.

Linsey has benefited from amazing teachers and tools that have helped her take control of her learning and become an advocate of what she needs to meet learning goals. Digital learning resources and assistive tools, like those in netTrekker, have helped Linsey and students around the country like her, personalize their own learning experience. These same pieces have also added to the skills of educators as they architect learning opportunities and environments for learners that need additional supports and student centered instructional design.

Linsey has recently been appointed as a teen advocate in the national organization, AutismSpeaks.org and will be sharing her ideas and inspiration around teaching and learning with Autism. Find out more about her journey here.

Meet Darren

Darren has a concrete, literal, rule-based style that makes him stand out from other learners. Darren struggles with the nuanced connections between and among concepts, preferring instead to have schoolwork and assignments delivered factually. His education has been supported with very informed parents and access to great programs for students with special learning needs. Darren has been able to excel in programs that focus on his unique needs, but has discovered some programs don’t fit with the Autism/Asperger’s aspects of his learner profile. In the ninth grade, he tried Project Based Learning that was learner driven and found that, even though this approach is very popular to empower learners, his learning style required significantly more structure and direction. He was lost in the nuance and too uncomfortable socially to ask for guidance from teachers or peers.

Flexible, agile and powerful active learning content found in netTrekker has supported Darren, his teachers, and parents with resources and tools designed to support his unique needs and preferences. Though Darren is working towards better managing his learning experiences, he is already well on the path to understanding and awareness of key supports available to him.

For more information about how netTrekker supports special learners, please see http://www.knownewideas.com/page/bringingordertodisorder

Posted on our original Blog site by Dawn Crawford, M. Ed.