By McMichael, Craig J.
Internet@Schools , Vol. 18, No. 4
Creating a Flexible, Inclusive, Dynamic 21st-Century Classroom
The 21st-century classroom is characteriTed by the diversity of its students, evident not only in their various ethnicities but also in their unique learning styles. In addition, some students may have special needs that call for additional or differentiated instruction. It is essential that 21st-century teachers not only implement best practices to meet the needs of their students but that they are provided adequate resources so that every student can find success. At Detroit Catholic Central High School, we have undertaken a project leveraging Cengage Learning's electronic library resources to do just this. In this article, I'll highlight these resources and demonstrate how they can be used in the classroom to make for an inclusive learning environment that is committed to enhancing student learning.
Our project focuses on the benefits of implementing Cengage Learning's ebooks and electronic databases into a high school curriculum in place of print-based textbooks. My primary focus here is to look at how these resources benefit students with special needs and, secondarily, to show how their use can help schools cut costs. Unlike etexts and e-resources, traditional print-based textbooks offer teachers and students little flexibility; few print-based textbooks offer specific accommodations to meet the needs of all learners. If they do, the costs associated with these accommodations are separate from the price paid for the print-based textbook, and those costs come in the form of both time and money. A teacher's skills are underutilized trying to locate and align a specific accommodation tool to meet a student's educational need. And this can be a discouraging process, as sometimes there might not even be a proper alternative or accommodation.
The use of etextbooks and electronic resources from Cengage Learning help to cut down on the budget that is spent purchasing textbooks and electronic resources. Currently at many schools, there are two separate budgets: a textbook budget and an ebook and electronic subscriptions budget. The adoption of an electronic curriculum not only saves money by removing the need to buy new textbooks periodically, but it also does away with the costs of maintaining and replacing lost or damaged print-based materials and the accommodation tools associated with each of them.
(WAY) BEYOND COST SAVINGS
Cost savings can be a major factor in the decision to adopt an electronic curriculum, but the real benefits come with the built-in flexibility that the e-resources offer all of the stakeholders in a school. Cengage's electronic resources offer students, teachers, and school districts a truly inclusive and dynamic resource that cannot be matched by traditional print-based textbooks. To demonstrate this point, let's take a closer look at the benefits of two of the inclusive tools- ones that provide accommodations for struggling readers: ReadSpeaker and the Translation function-and how they help to make for an inclusive classroom. And we'll demonstrate a number of other features and tools that provide learning benefits as well.
ACCOMMODATING LEARNING TOOLS
ReadSpeaker and the Translation tool are located within all of Cengage Learning's electronic resources. They help meet the needs of struggling readers, auditory learners, and English-language learners (ELL). Unlike most accommodations, all students have access to these learning tools and do not need an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) to benefit from them.
In addition to the built-in accommodations to assist students in their reading, the e-resources provide schools with the flexibility to use these resources in various types of classrooms. Whether technologically well-equipped "have" classrooms or poorly equipped "have-not" classrooms, built-in tools are available to both the haves and the have-nots. In a technology-centered learning environment (the haves), students can access the information directly from their personal learning devices (desktops, laptops, BlackBerries, iPhones, MP3 players). …