Ensuring digital content will work on the appropriate devices
Any discussion of the use of digital content should encompass consideration of the technical requirements that exist “behind the scenes” to support that selection. Those areas include content format, broadband, availability and accessibility, among other aspects.
- Content format. The evaluation process for digital content should include making note of the formats the content is available in and the operating systems and internet browsers it is compatible with. It is important to monitor the minimum and recommended device specifications to make the best use of the digital content provided by the content publisher. If the content is not “device agnostic,” what are the tradeoffs you might be forced to make? (For example, if your school has a BYOD program, will all students be able to access and have the same experience with that content as somebody using a school-supplied device?)
- Test the various configurations. The best way to confirm that digital content will work on any given computing device or operating system is to try as many combinations as possible. Put together a “test kit” that combines each type of computing device, its system software and a sample of the content and allow users to interact with the content to uncover the unexpected “gotchas.”
- Content access. Decide what type of content access is preferred and then determine how the licensing and copyright considerations address those preferences. Can the digital content be saved to computing devices, made available online, or both? Is internet access required to see and interact with the content? Can the content follow the user and adapt to the device being used at the moment? For example, will the content adapt to a standard laptop computer screen as well as the small screens of smartphones or “phablets”?
- Broadband. Some digital content relies on the use of streaming video or high definition visuals. Are the plans for acquisition of digital content in sync with plans to expand the broadband access coming to the building as well throughout the building? For more on this refer to the “Broadband & Wi-Fi section.”
- Accessibility. How are the needs of students with disabilities and English language learners addressed by the technology and the content? What are the advantages and disadvantages of the content for these students? At the most basic level, is the content accessible? Additionally, does it provide the supports and scaffolds to support independent learning by a diverse student population?
- Use of the digital format. A major advantage of using digital content is that it does not need to follow the static format of printed curriculum. Interactive textbooks and online activities have the potential to provide for better student engagement. However, that cannot be assumed. Digital materials vary widely in quality and currency. When comparing choices, consider how well the digital content you are considering reflects “state of the art” in content creation and delivery.
One final overall consideration regarding technical requirements is the proliferation of user names and passwords as districts acquire and use various software packages and access content from various sources. The result of this proliferation is either students and educators having different user names and passwords for each piece of software or resource, with the list of those possibly in a less than secure place, or using the same user name and password for everything, also not the most safe and secure method. Another option is single sign-on, a way of access control of many disparate, independent software systems. With this capability, users log in once and then are able to gain access to all the systems they have security clearance for without having to log in to each. There is a myriad of entities that offer this capability.