SPS partners with Discovery Education 

Published 10:13 pm Thursday, October 21, 2021

Think techbooks instead of textbooks.

For Suffolk Public Schools, a new partnership with Discovery Education will allow it to provide up-to-the-minute digital content and materials to enhance its teaching and learning of science and other areas.

Through a pair of platforms that will be used in all of the division’s 21 schools, teachers will have access to standards-aligned content across the curriculum, quiz and activity creation tools and resources for professional learning.

They and students will also be able to use the company’s science techbook series, which employ virtual and hands-on lessons, STEM activities and instructional supports to teach in person or virtually. Discovery Education officials say the digital teacher editions have flexible pacing options, teacher notes embedded in them and Pathways for Learning to help diverse learners.

“The introduction of Discovery Education’s digital services into district classrooms helps SPS teachers provide students new learning opportunities,” said Superintendent Dr. John B. Gordon III in a statement. “It connects the instruction going on inside the classroom to the world in which they live. We are incredibly excited to have these resources now available throughout the district.”

The company’s platforms are used by school divisions in the United States and Canada, including in Chesapeake and Portsmouth, and are aligned with state and national standards. They are also designed to work within the school division’s existing infrastructure and workflows.

Partnerships with platforms such as Microsoft Teams, Google Classroom, Schoology, Canvas, Brightspace and Clever allow the company to integrate into existing information technology architecture.

To get its platforms rolling across the division, Discovery Education provided professional development for staff prior to the start of the school year.

The state board of education approved the Virginia edition of the science textbook in September 2020 and is used in K-5 schools in Chesapeake and by K-12 schools in Portsmouth.

Teachers will continue to receive professional learning opportunities through the Discovery Education platform, and they will be able to connect with other teachers through it.

“The fact that all of these resources are in one place, all of these resources are incredibly flexible and can be used online or in person, and the fact that the resources really help extend learning beyond the school bells,” said Stephen Wakefield, Discovery Education senior vice president of corporate communications, “… I’ve got to think that those all add to the tremendous value of these resources.”

He said it can offer real-time assessments, and it has a studio feature allowing students to build what it calls interactive boards, rich digital resources that they can use online or in person.

“Think of the old science fair board, but digital,” Wakefield said. “They can build those using digital resources, digital content, to show their knowledge in a different way.”

Its tools also give teachers the ability to “very thoughtfully apply these resources where appropriate, really come together to create modern classrooms that you’re seeing pop up all over southern Virginia.”

Kelly Hoce, senior director of education partnerships for Discovery Education, said the partnership is off to a strong start. He said such partnerships usually take about six to eight months to develop.

He said SPS was looking for a high-quality, flexible digital solution to support learning for all of its students, the flexibility for blended learning and being able to address any student where they are through language enhancements and immersive reader resources. The division paid for the Discovery Education platforms through general fund money, spending just over $400,000 in June and about $55,000 for another part of it in September, according to division bill lists for June 24 and Sept. 10.

“We certainly want students in person, but regardless of where they are,” Hoce said, “being able to have digital resources they know they can count on anytime, anywhere was super important.”