On February 1, thirty-nine states, 19,000 teachers, and 1.7 million students participated in the first-ever Digital Learning Day, a national awareness campaign spearheaded by the Alliance for Excellent Education showcasing 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.
“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,” said Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia. “It is time we stop asking students to ‘power down’ when they go to school and instead to ‘power up’ and use their interest in technology as a new way to learn.”
The marquee event for Digital Learning Day was the virtual National Town Hall, where U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski challenged schools and companies to get digital textbooks in students’ hands within five years.
“Education is one of the most important challenges we face as a country,” Genachowski said. “We want to challenge all of the players in this ecosystem to do everything they can to move this country toward universal digital textbooks in the next five years.”
During his remarks, Duncan discussed how technology could help schools move from a school day based on a nineteenth-century agrarian economy to one that prepares all students for a globally competitive knowledge-based economy.
“Our children need access to information,” Duncan said. “They need to chance to learn 24-7. How do we do that? How do we level the playing field? I think technology is the answer. … I think technology going forward is going to revolutionize how we provide education.”
Duncan also stressed that technology would “empower,” not eliminate, the need for great teachers. “Great teachers love the opportunity to interact with their students, not just during the school day but into the evenings,” Duncan said. “They love the idea of having access to great mentors who can help them if they’re struggling with how to reach a certain student … to have this entire worldwide network of resources to help them get their job done. … Technology by itself is not the answer. It’s amazing teachers, it’s great professional development ….”
The National Town Hall also featured U.S. Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) and live interaction via Skype with teachers, students, and leaders from four school districts around the country—Englewood Schools (CO); Mooresville Graded School District (NC); Klein Independent School District (TX); and New Tech West High School (OH)—that are at different levels in their implementation of technology and shared how they are using technology in new ways to improve learning.
“This isn’t theoretical,” Duncan said. “This isn’t some hope in the unseen. This is happening in creative schools and school districts around the country today. Our question, our challenge is how do we go to scale as fast as we can?”
The town hall also profiled great teachers such as Kristin Kipp, an English teacher at Jeffco’s Twenty-first Century Virtual Academy in Colorado and the 2011 National Online Teacher of the Year; and Joseph Isaac, a biotechnology teacher at McKinley Technology High School in Washington, DC, who discussed how they are effectively using technology to deliver instruction. Also featured were successful education innovation projects, such as the Khan Academy, that demonstrate how technology can be used in the classroom to improve student outcomes.
In addition to the National Town Hall, Digital Learning Day celebrations were conducted in thirty-nine states (in blue in map to the right)1 and the District of Columbia, representing 88 percent of all students in the United States, and in hundreds of schools and school districts (orange dots in map to the right). In eighteen states, governors, both Democrat and Republican, issued a proclamation declaring February 1, 2012 to be Digital Learning Day.
In addition to the National Town Hall, the Alliance aired an extensive, in-depth webcast demonstrating how digital learning is already being used in classrooms around the country. During the webcast, educators shared innovative approaches designed to ensure that students graduate from high school prepared for college and a career. Additionally, several members of Congress, includingRepresentatives Jared Polis (D-CO), Kristi Noem (R-SD), and Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), provided videos and other messages to demonstrate their support for the work of teachers and students on Digital Learning Day.
Both the National Town Hall and the morning webcast were accompanied by a live chat that provided educators from around the United States and around the globe with the opportunity to connect with each other to discuss best practices in digital learning, share lesson plans, give opinions on infrastructure and technological devices, and network with leaders in education technology.
“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,” said Wise. “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.”
Archived video from the National Town Hall and the morning webcast, as well as a transcript of the live chat, are available at http://www.digitallearningday.org/DLD2012.
1 The thirty-nine states participating in Digital Learning Day on February 1 were Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.