Choices Program offers Rhode Island teachers access to digital course content

The Choices Program at Brown is granting high school teachers in Rhode Island free access to digital editions of its classroom units, which cover topics including war, genocide and climate change.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — As high school teachers in Rhode Island settle into the new normal of remote teaching, the Choices Program at Brown University is assisting by offering digital teaching materials at no cost.

Through the end of the state’s school year in June, while students and teachers remain home to stem the spread of COVID-19, the program — which is part of Brown’s history department — is offering free digital editions of all history and current issues teaching materials to high school teachers in Rhode Island. The intent is to help educators who may be new to virtual learning and confronting the unexpected challenges of converting classroom-based lessons into digital discussions and assignments. 

"Teachers face many challenges, even in ordinary times,” said Andy Blackadar, director of curriculum development at the Choices Program. “When COVID-19 hit, we all wanted to help teachers and our community in any way that we could. This is a way we could contribute to fighting this pandemic."

For more than three decades, the Choices Program has been developing teaching materials for high schools and some middle schools in collaboration with researchers at Brown and other leading scholars. It currently offers 37 social sciences curriculum units spanning such topics as the Syrian civil war, the international history of genocide and the political and historical issues surrounding climate change. Each unit contains five to nine lessons and is intended to cover about 10 class periods. Throughout all of its educational materials, the Choices Program encourages teachers to cover history in an inclusive way, to make connections between the past and the challenges of today, and to emphasize student engagement.

Choices Program units are created in collaboration with Brown faculty and often draw on their research.

Typically, the units are available in both print and digital formats and are purchased either individually or in bundles; those buying them range from single teachers to entire schools to entire districts. Units usually cost between $43 and $100, depending on the format of the materials and the length of the license purchased.

"We want to be supportive of teachers and students at this time,” said Mimi Stephens, director of professional development at the Choices Program. “They are already dealing with a new teaching format, new demands and stress at home. We want to make it easy for them to access vetted, accurate, scholar-informed content that helps students build critical thinking skills.”

Staff from the program have also reached out to teachers and schools across the world who already use their course materials to offer digital editions of previously purchased programs at no additional cost through June 30.

Teachers from Wyoming to Germany have already responded enthusiastically to the digital curricula. 

“A big thank you to Brown University for opening this up for us to use during virtual learning,” said James Stringer, who teaches social studies at Highlander Charter School in Providence. “There is one class in particular that I teach [for] which the planned curriculum does not work in a virtual classroom. I've been struggling to plan where we go virtually, and [the] Human Rights unit seems to be a perfect fit. I'm excited and relieved to have something in hand that not only matches with our overall goals but will also work well in the virtual classroom.”

Tags COVID-19