Digital Learning Day: Empowering Teachers, Promoting Innovation
February 01, 2012 12:05 pm
Technology has made nearly everything in modern life more efficient, accessible, richer, and faster, yet students are frequently asked to check their smart phones, laptops, and other devices at the door when they enter a classroom. That will change on Wednesday, February 1, when thirty-nine states, 15,000 teachers, and more than 1.7 million students participate in the first-ever national Digital Learning Day-a day to showcase how technology can take learning in the United States to a much higher level and provide all students with experiences that allow them to graduate from high school prepared for college and a career.
Digital Learning Day is not about technology for technology’s sake-simply slapping a netbook on top of a textbook will not move the education needle very much. Instead, it’s about recognizing the great potential that effective technology has to transform the world of learning when combined with powerful teaching and rigorous content.
Like a Model T car in today’s interstate age, many of the country’s schools are outdated and no longer serve the needs of a nation powered by innovation and fueled by knowledge and skills. Instead of cultivating young minds and preparing the nation’s next generation of leaders, America’s high schools are hemorrhaging talent as more than 1 million students drop out every year. That’s a recipe for disaster when more than 60 percent of current jobs require some form of additional education after high school.
Digital learning can help to re-engage disinterested students, provide gifted students with access to more challenging content, and offer all students a more personalized learning environment. It allows students to work at their own pace-moving on when they master a subject or taking extra time in an area where they need more help. Digital learning can also provide all students, rural or urban, with access to a number of subjects that may not be available in their individual schools, including foreign languages, advanced math, physics, and more.
For teachers, digital learning provides additional opportunities to personalize education, utilize data and content more efficiently, and be more innovative in their teaching to ensure that all students meet today’s challenging standards. It also offers teachers a way to do their job more effectively by using technology as a professional development tool through online courses, professional learning communities, and digital resources and content. Digital learning can also be a force multiplier for teachers; instead of having a teacher instructing only the twenty students in her class, she can also reach countless students over the internet.
Digital learning takes on many forms-from online courses and digital content to adaptive software for students with special needs, and more. But these are only some of the possibilities. Innovations are sweeping the nation and teachers are continuously finding new ways to use technology to strengthen the teaching and learning experience. And because technology and digital learning often transcend geographic locations or personal situations (such as income status, special learning needs, and language barriers), students and teachers can now participate in learning experiences and have access to resources that barely existed a decade ago.
Already, schools and school districts such as Englewood Schools in Colorado, Mooresville Graded School District in North Carolina, Klein Independent School District in Texas, and New Tech West High School in Ohio are successfully using digital learning to boost their students’ outcomes. But a modern information-based economy demands that every child in every school district has access to the engaging experience that is possible through digital learning. The teachers are here, the technology is everywhere, and the students are ready and able. Now it’s time to put it all together.
No matter the approach, no matter the grade level, no matter the subject or geographic location, no matter the teacher’s specific comfort with using technology, Digital Learning Day will challenge education professionals and policymakers at all levels to explore a new strategy, make a proclamation, improve a lesson, or create a plan to use technology to improve teaching and learning.
The nation has a moral and economic imperative to change the way teachers teach and students learn to ensure that every child graduates from high school with the skills they need to succeed in college and today’s highly competitive job market. It is time we stop asking students to “power down” when they enter the classroom and instead to “power up” and use their interest in technology as a new way to learn. On Digital Learning Day, Wednesday, February 1, that’s exactly what they will do.
Get involved and see what’s going on at http://www.digitallearningday.org.
Bob Wise is president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia.