Glossary for Better K-12 District Decision Making

Success in implementing district-wide initiatives like transitioning to digital curriculum or implementing effective learning management systems requires curriculum and IT leaders, people who come from very different backgrounds, to be on the same page. Here’s a translation guide to help curriculum directors and IT directors speak the same language and work from the same playbook to improve learning outcomes.


Here’s the term This is how curriculum defines it This is how information technology defines it To find common ground, use this instead
Adaptive Learning An educational process where the teaching methods and materials adapt to each student’s pace and level. Software that changes exercises, questions, and content easily based on previous answers and actions by a student. Using computers, devices, and online systems in a way that adapts and responds to a particular student’s performance in real time.
Blended Learning Also known as hybrid learning, this is a teaching practice that combines, or blends, classroom and online learning. The instruction of a lesson occurs with both teacher interaction and computing devices. An education program that requires the support of online digital media, but that also includes traditional classroom methods. A “blend” of online and offline learning, this tech-supported teaching practice involves a mix of face-to-face instruction and web-based online learning.
Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Instead of handing out laptops or devices to students, those pupils use their own mobile phones, tablets, and/or laptops in the classroom. Trying to keep all of the devices online can pose a distraction for teachers, but the consensus is generally that BYOD is a viable alternative to a school-funded 1:1 implementation. Students bring their own mobile devices into the classroom for class purposes, as opposed to using school-issued devices. This is often seen as an alternative to 1:1 programs due to lower maintenance costs, though students without devices cannot participate. An alternative to more expensive, school-issued 1:1 programs, the BYOD approach helps to bring technology into the classroom without the associated investment and/or liability that a school-run 1:1 program demands.
Common Cartridge A cartridge may be an assessment filled with test items, an entire set of supplementary digital content that comes along with a textbook, or an online course. The is a specification that enables strict interoperability between content and systems. They also support great flexibility in the type of digital content supported (content can actually be applications) and where such content is located. This interoperability standard provides a set of specifications that enable a wide variety of digital educational content to be accessed from a wide variety of learning platforms, including learning management systems, course management systems, virtual learning environments, portals, and web applications.[i]
Content Management Services (CMS) A centralized system that teachers and administrators use to create content like grades and progress reports. A CMS has two components: a content management application (CMA) and a content delivery application (CDA). The CMA is a graphical user interface (GUI) that allows the user to control the creation, modification and removal of content from a website without needing to know anything about HTML.  The CDA component provides the back-end services that support management and delivery of the content once it has been created in the CMA.[ii] A district-wide, centralized system where content like grades and progress reports are uploaded, stored, and then accessed by students, parents, teachers, and others.
Content Repository A database of digital content where instructors and curriculum directors maintain lesson plans, collections, and tools that they use for instruction. A database that includes an associated set of data management, search and access methods allowing application-independent access to the content. A digital library that teachers and curriculum directors can use to store and modify content in addition to searching and retrieving.[iii]
Differentiation  In differentiated instruction, the learning process is tailored to the learning preferences and abilities of individual students or groups of learners. Differentiated instruction is still considered teacher-centered. Using technology to tailor instruction that meets the needs of individual students (i.e., the use of ongoing assessment and flexible grouping to ensure that all learners are engaging with the content at their own levels). A pedagogy where learning goals are the same for all students, but the method or approach of instruction varies according to the preferences of each student or what research has found works best for students like them.
Engagement The attentiveness and interest of a student to the lesson at hand. If a student is highly engaged, it means the student is focused, and maybe even enthusiastic about the topic. Multimedia, video streaming, and podcasting are some of the tech tools that teachers can use to engage students in learning. The best learning occurs when there is high engagement, or when students are highly attentive and interested in the learning process.
Flipped Classroom A form of Blended Learning, this is the practice of students watching lecture material (usually in video form) at home, then practicing their learnings in an interactive environment in the classroom. Using screencasting tools, audio recording, interactive white boards, and other pieces of educational technology to deliver learning outside of the four walls of the classroom. The flipped classroom is a pedagogical model in which the typical lecture and homework elements of a course are reversed. Short video lectures are viewed by students at home before the class session, while in-class time is devoted to exercises, projects, or discussions.[iv]
Hybrid Learning Synonymous with Blended Learning. See the Blended Learning definitions above.
Individual Education Program (IEP) A comprehensive and personalized plan that helps a child with disabilities achieve a specific set of educational goals. IEPs are comprehensive learning program plans created for students with special earning needs. Each program guides how all the lessons and learning events will be designed to address the particular learning needs of the student. Parents, teachers, and school specialists work together to construct and carry out this plan, which helps a child with disabilities achieve a specific set of educational goals.
Individual Learning Plan (ILP) A student-specific program or learning strategy based on a student’s strengths and weaknesses. ILP presumes that the needs of individual students are different, and thus, must be differently addressed rather than the traditional approach of one-size-fits-all. Real individualization is achieved through technology tools that facilitate delivery of instruction aligned to an individual student’s needs and learning style.



The cornerstone of a quality education for each child, the ILP serves as a foundation to guide instruction and learning aligned to a student’s strengths and weaknesses. A student’s role in the learning experience has also been shown in research to be crucial to the learning experience.
Learning Management System (LMS) A piece of software that serves as a centralized content repository, assessment platform, student data hub, and professional development platform. A software application for the administration, documentation, tracking, reporting, and delivery of educational courses or training programs. An LMS gives teachers, administrators, parents, and students an online component alongside their traditional instruction. Not only can teachers post classroom content but they may also have students participate in online discussions, submit assignments, complete assessments, and create standards-aligned content.
Learning Object Any digital resource that can be reused to support learning (e.g., a lesson, an assessment, a unit of study). A modular resource, usually digital and web-based, that can be used and reused to support learning activities.[v] A collection of content items, practice items, and assessment items—from either publishers or open resources collections—that are based on a single learning objective.
Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI)  The teacher who has an interactive assessment application or virtual chemistry lab, can securely connect that lab to an educational platform in a standard way without having to develop and maintain custom integrations for each platform. A standard way of integrating rich learning applications (often remotely hosted and provided through third-party services) with platforms like learning management systems, portals, learning object repositories, or other educational environments. A standard that allows for seamless connection of web-based, externally-hosted applications and content or tools.[vi]
Managed Learning Environment A managed learning environment can contain student contact information, details about courses and modules which the student has enrolled in, and where teachers can easily access and assess student achievement and outcomes. A managed learning environment combines all of the aspects of a virtual learning environment with a management system to hold extended information about participants and e-moderators. A virtual workspace in which curriculum, resources, and online activities are supported, monitored, and facilitated.[vii]
Metadata Information that provides context and/or additional information about other data, and that helps teachers more effectively classify and categorize their classroom data. A data set that describes and gives information about other data. Metadata summarizes information about data, such as the type of asset, date created, file size, and usage.
OneRoster This is a standard that helps teachers and curriculum directors automatically organize their digital resources, such as formative and summative assessment scores. It keeps teachers from having to re-enter student data into every single program that they’re using, thus saving valuable instructional time. OneRoster is the standard specification for securely sharing class rosters and related data between a student information system (SIS) and any other system, typically a content application or learning information system (LMS). By eliminating the need for manual creation of unique class roster data, OneRoster helps teachers and IT set up and manage their districts’ tools and technologies.[viii]
One-to-one (1:1) A learning environment where every student has his or her own laptop or tablet to use in the classroom. Using the technology, teachers can make assignments, interact with students, provide feedback, and allow pupils to interact with one another both in and outside of the classroom. Most commonly refers to a program where a school provides one device (e.g. laptop, tablet, etc.) per student. Where every student in a classroom is associated with one device or laptop.
Open Educational Resource (OER) Freely-accessible online courses, lectures, homework assignments, exercises, quizzes, interactive simulations, and games. Unlike paid learning resources, OER can be accessed online and used for instruction without the need for licensing or subscriptions. Any online educational material that is freely accessible and openly licensed for public consumption.


OER are teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and repurposing by others.[ix]
Personalized Learning Instruction that is paced to learning needs, tailored to learning preferences, and tailored to the specific interests of different learners. Facilitated by tech and digital tools, personalized learning refers to a way of teaching that’s tailored to students’ individual needs. Often, students in the same classroom may be working on different content at different paces, depending on their levels of ability.[x] In an environment that is fully personalized, the learning objectives and content as well as the method and pace may all vary according to the individual student’s own needs and pace of learning.
Personal Learning Network (PLN) Since teaching in a classroom doesn’t lend itself to a lot of peer interaction, teachers create PLNs to meet other teachers for advice and support. An informal network of people that is professional in nature and meant to aid an educator in furthering his/her pedagogical craft. The technology that supports PLN includes web, good bandwidth, video, and social media. When educators form groups of like-minded individuals to interact with and derive knowledge from.
Project Based Learning (PBL) A teaching method based on the idea of “learning by doing,” and that tends to have high levels of student engagement. Students “show” what they learn as they make their way through curriculum units while also interacting with its lessons, collaborating with each other, and assessing themselves and each other (versus taking a “test”). Using tech and digital tools, students work on a hands-on real-world activity that demonstrates the concepts they are learning. From the IT perspective, supporting PBL requires good bandwidth, streaming capabilities, and student-centric devices (laptops, tablets, mobile phones). A teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an authentic, engaging, and complex question, problem, or challenge.[xi]
Single sign-on (SSO) When teachers or students can use a single set of login credentials across numerous educational technology applications, rather than having to log in and out within the same session. A session and user authentication service that permits a user to use one set of login credentials (e.g., name and password) to access multiple applications. By authenticating the end user for all the applications the user has been given rights to, SSO eliminates further prompts when the user switches applications during the same session.
Student Assessment The tests, essays, projects, presentations, and other items that teachers use to measure a student’s competency and progress. Software that can be used to measure a student’s competency in a particular topic. For IT, bandwidth is a high priority, as is the hardware required to administer the assessments.  The amount and quality of the fiber optics between buildings—and the quality of licenses to support those access points—are also important. Simultaneous online testing, for instance, requires high bandwidth and effective management of that bandwidth. The wide variety of methods or tools that educators use to evaluate, measure, and document the academic readiness, learning progress, skill acquisition, or educational needs of students.[xii]
Student Information System (SIS) A piece of software that manages student data. This includes grades, attendance, background information, discipline records, health records, etc. A portal where student records and information are uploaded, stored, and retrieved. The technology requirements to support an SIS implementation include the decision to support the platform on local servers (or, move it to the cloud), and the data security and firewalls needed to protect the associated data. Not to be confused with an LMS, an SIS gives teachers and administrative staff a tool for automating tasks such as running enrollment reports and recording grades.
Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK) A model for how pedagogy, technology, and content can interact and work together. TPACK requires an understanding of how content and technology influence each other. Specifically, the representation of concepts using technology and using technology in constructive ways to teach content. Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK) attempts to identify the nature of knowledge required by teachers for technology integration in their teaching, while addressing the complex, multifaceted and situated nature of teacher knowledge.[xiii]
Thin Common Cartridge A zip file that contains a Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) link for authentication, a standard web link to targeted content on a publisher’s servers, and two different types of metadata. Enables evolution to digital curriculum in which the digital curriculum is hosted on a secure web server while being searchable and accessible at a granular level by a learning platform. An index of learning objects or other direct entry points to a district’s web-hosted content. Each index entry in the Thin CC consists of a link to a specific entry point to the web-hosted content (a learning object) with associated curriculum standards, and other descriptive metadata.[xiv]



[i] IMS Global,



[iv] 7 Things You Should Know About Flipped Classrooms – Educause



[vii] IGI Global,

[viii] IMS Global,

[ix] Hewlett Foundation,






Open Website This resource is a eBook

Back to Resources