AEP Award Winner Profile: Past and Future Meet in Social Studies Programs from McGraw-Hill

History: dry-as-dust memorization of facts and dates or lively discussion depicting the human face of memorable events? The best educational materials bring the subject alive, showing actions put into context and helping students understand how past events led us to where we are today.

But how best to present such materials as publishers continue to transition from all-print formats to more integrated delivery methods. Hybrid print/digital textbook programs are no longer a brand-new concept, but bringing the elements together smoothly still presents many challenges.

This year’s Golden Lamp winner in the Whole Curriculum category overcame these challenges to create an integrated product whose whole is even stronger than its impressive parts, addressing both content and delivery in a manner judges hailed as “incredible.”Discovering Our Past: A History of the United States (grades 6-8) andUnited States History and Geography (grades 9-12) are part of Networks, a new social studies learning system from McGraw-Hill Education that aims to combine print and digital resources into a seamless educational experience.

According to the AEP awards judges, the products’ creators succeeded on a grand scale. Not only did Discovering Our Past and United States History and Geography win the Golden Lamp, but they also earned a Distinguished Achievement Award in the Whole Curriculum Programs, Social Studies category.

The products earned perfect scores at all three stages in the DAA judging, with one judge saying, “Hands down this is your winner! This is an incredible resource and transforms the way teachers instruct and how students learn.” Golden Lamp judges were equally effusive, with one saying, “The online and offline components of this social studies learning system work seamlessly together to provide a comprehensive program that meets objectives and standards. As a whole, the system is current and fresh, and seems to reflect not only research-based standards but also student-teacher needs and requirements.”

McGraw-Hill Education worked closely with Jay McTighe, a creator ofUnderstanding by Design, in the creation of these materials, which follow his “backward mapping” design of working backward from overall learning goals to develop lessons that will help students meet those goals. “We felt this was the best way to reach the majority of teachers and therefore the vast majority of students,” said Stephen Waldron, Vice President and Group Editorial Director for Social Studies for McGraw-Hill Networks™.

“What we really wanted to do was to provide the flexibility to use print with an online experience that teachers could customize and to provide complete interactivity to the students,” Waldron said. While customers have the option of buying solely print or digital versions of the materials, Waldron said that most are buying both and using them together.

The slogan for Networks is that it “meets you anywhere; takes you everywhere,” Waldron said, and the print/digital options are designed to meet schools wherever they may be on the technology continuum. For instance, some schools want the materials both in print and online so that they can transition smoothly as their technology advances. “Our goal is to provide flexibility whether you are all print or all digital or somewhere in between,” said Waldron.

Waldron also noted that Discovering Our Past and United States History and Geography take slightly different approaches based on their respective audiences. Focus group testing during product development revealed that middle school students and teachers felt most comfortable with a more traditional length of text supported with other materials. High schools seemed ready to condense the student print edition and place more material online.

With most classrooms today having students with widely varying reading levels (and often widely varying first languages as well), the Networks system strives to provide the adaptability needed to serve students ranging from struggling learners to gifted readers. For instance, with the flip of a switch, students can access a version of the text written at an easier reading level. Best of all, they can do it privately so their neighbors need not know they are reading an easier version.

“One of the biggest concerns we hear from teachers is that students read at a variety of levels,” said Waldron. “All teachers have become teachers of reading. We as publishers need to provide as many aids as we possibly can.”

Indeed, a finals judge in the Golden Lamp category specifically cited the program’s student appeal and ease of use, saying, “The great interactive experience jumps right in to define the digital textbook of today with pull-up glossary windows by key terms, interactive maps, questions students can type in as they go along embedded into the text, dynamic images, and easy-to-follow navigation.”

Another key aspect of the program is the flexibility it offers; teachers can customize the material and pick and choose what they want to use. They can follow the lesson plans closely, adjust them, or even insert their own lessons. “A lot of teachers have their favorite resources,” Waldron said. “They can integrate those into our program, which becomes very powerful for them.”

Perhaps that is part of what led one judge to conclude, “This is indeed the tool of today and the future. I can’t even think of one way to change it or make it better, and I’ve been working in educational publishing a long time. This series will keep kids learning and they won’t be able to stop.”

Learn more about McGraw-Hill Networks™: A Social Studies Learning System.