Digital Curricula vs. Digital Tools: Definition & Uses

Instructor: Frank Clint

Frank has been an educator for over 10 years. He has a doctorate degree in education with a concentration in curriculum and instruction.

In the digital age, classrooms cannot avoid digital curricula and digital tools. In this lesson, we will discuss the differences between the two and explore some examples.

Digital Curricula vs. Digital Tools

Classrooms have evolved along with our world. If you were a student graduating high school 20 years ago, the internet was new, cell phones weren't a standard item in purses and pockets, and tablets didn't even exist. Online learning existed in its archaic form, and the words social and media had no relation. Much has changed, and the classroom of today reflects all of the technological advances that have taken the world by storm. Because of this shift, digital curricula and digital tools have emerged although they are not staples in every classroom. What is the difference between a digital curriculum and a digital tool, and what is the purpose of each?

Digital Curricula

Depending on when and where you went to school, you may have learned with books, such as textbooks from an official program bought by the school or district. Your teacher may have given assignments using worksheets and assessments on paper. Digital curriculum replaces traditional curriculum such as textbooks and in some cases the traditional classroom environment. Some examples of a digital curriculum include:

  • Online courses
  • Electronic textbooks
  • Digital and online programs

Online courses range from K-12 to university and vocational levels. This type of digital curriculum allows for a blended learning environment or an entirely online learning environment. Teachers deliver all assignments and curriculum materials via an online learning management system (LMS). In other cases, electronic textbooks have enabled teachers to replace the heavy books used before. Electronic textbooks quickly open on a tablet, smartphone, laptop, or computer.

Digital and online curriculum programs are widely used in schools today. Some examples include Study Island, Istation, and IXL. These programs are designed to teach or reinforce curriculum standards using gamification, which is using game-like elements and other engaging features. A program may reinforce math or reading standards using video lessons and practice activities, for example. Personalized learning programs with built-in assessments, such as computer adaptive assessments, make it possible for teachers to individualize instruction to meet the unique needs of each student.

Digital Tools and Resources

In some cases, digital tools and resources may be more appropriate than an entire curriculum. Digital tools differ from digital curricula because they are used to help deliver instruction or for other classroom purposes. They are not school curricula by themselves because they cannot replace instruction. For example, a video or movie maker app is considered a digital tool that can be used to help students create a movie to help explain a concept they are learning. Other digital tools and resources include:

  • Word processing documents
  • Slide presentation software
  • Electronic reference materials
  • Tablet and cellphone apps

An interactive whiteboard is an example of a digital tool.
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You can implement digital projects using various word processing and slide software for individual and collaborative projects. Instead of students creating a poster, for example, they could create a slideshow. Similar to electronic textbooks, dictionaries, thesauruses, and other reference tools can now be found on the internet or through apps, which saves room in the classroom.

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