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LET’S GET DIGITAL: On Digital Learning Day, Alliance Launched “Project 24” to Help School Districts Plan for Progress in Digital Learning

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“If you’re a school or district leader who is considering using education technology and digital learning in your schools, STOP—and go no further—until you have a comprehensive plan that addresses your district’s specific challenges and learning goals for all students,” said Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia
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Signifying the growing importance and demand for digital learning strategies in the classroom, nearly 25,000 teachers, millions of students, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne DuncanU.S. Chief Technology Officer Todd Park, and U.S. Representative George Miller (D-CA) joined the Alliance for Excellent Education on February 6 for the second annual Digital Learning Day, a national campaign that promotes digital learning and spotlights successful instructional technology practice in K–12 public school classrooms across the country. (Click on the link to watch the Digital Learning Day Digital Town Hall.)

As part of its celebration, the Alliance announced “Project 24,” a ground-breaking new initiative to help school districts plan for and effectively use technology and digital learning. Already, more than 350 school districts, representing approximately 2.5 million students across forty-two states and the District of Columbia, have signed up for Project 24.

“If you’re a school or district leader who is considering using education technology and digital learning in your schools, STOP—and go no further—until you have a comprehensive plan that addresses your district’s specific challenges and learning goals for all students,” said Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia. “Project 24 will help districts plan for the future and fully integrate digital learning into classrooms and school systems to achieve the goal of college and career readiness for all students.”

The “24” in Project 24 represents the next twenty-four months, a time during which the nation’s education landscape will change greatly as states and districts face numerous challenges, including the need to implement college- and career-ready standards for all students; utilize online assessments to gauge comprehension and learning; push for greater system and classroom innovation; deal with shrinking budgets; and contend with demands of states’ waivers from key provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act.

Project 24 will help to inform the incredibly important decisions that education leaders will need to make regarding each of these issues. To participate, a school district must (1) sign up at www.all4ed.org/project24; (2) assemble a team composed of the district superintendent or a representative, a district curriculum leader, the district technology director, and a district professional development leader; and (3) take the free self assessment. Upon completion of the self assessment, a confidential, customized report will be generated for each district.

“With Project 24’s self-assessment tool, district leaders can frame their vision for student learning, begin to recognize the various aspects of the system that need to be addressed, and specify how technology can help align these efforts to achieve higher college- and career-ready standards,” Wise said. “It will help district leaders move beyond counting computers and internet connections to analyzing how they can integrate technology into their instructional plans.”

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Partnering with other national membership organizations,1  the Alliance has identified a framework with seven major components that will provide education leaders in states and school districts with tools to make good decisions about how technology aligns with the goals and visions for their students. As shown in the image to the right, the framework will provide assistance to districts on (1) academic supports, (2) budget and resources, (3) curriculum and instruction, (4) data and assessments, (5) professional learning, (6) technology and infrastructure, and (7) use of time.

Districts will have access to the Project 24 Team of Experts, a team of nationally recognized leaders with a demonstrated record of success in effectively using technology to help advance student outcomes. Additionally, the Alliance is developing a two-year schedule of virtual activities that will allow district leaders to collaborate and share information while receiving guidance from the Project 24 team of experts. These resources include webinars, instructional videos, profiles of successful districts, and interactive chats and blogs.

“Make no mistake; digital learning holds the key to preparing millions of additional students for college and productive careers, but districts need to approach this opportunity with sound planning to get the best results,” said Wise. “Going forward, our goal is to get every district to sign up and start planning.”

The launch of Project 24 coincided with the Alliance’s second annual Digital Learning Day, during which educators from across the country gave interactive digital lessons, collaborated with colleagues over the internet, or simply tried something new with technology in their classrooms. Throughout the day, more than 1,000 participating teachers, education leaders, and others interacted with digital teaching experts and each other through a series of live online chats. (Transcripts from the live chats are available at http://www.digitallearningday.org/chat.) Additionally, Rep. Miller took over the Digital Learning Day Facebook page from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m., answering questions and responding to comments at http://www.facebook.com/NationalDigitalLearningDay.

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For the first time, Digital Learning Day also incorporated hands-on instructional demonstrations, in which Secretary Duncan and more than 100 teachers from the Washington, DC metro area were shown sample lessons by digital teaching experts specializing in math, science, civics/social studies, and English language arts.

The morning demonstrations were followed by the Digital Town Hall, which featured U.S. Chief Technology Officer Todd Park and Rep. Miller, senior Democratic member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. The Digital Town Hall featured educators and highlighted effective digital learning strategies from Dysart Unified School District (AZ), Quakertown Community School District (PA), Cajon Valley Union School District (CA), and Miami-Dade County Public Schools (FL).

“All school districts, regardless of their size or makeup, stand to benefit from this revolution in teaching and learning,” said Wise. “That’s why the Alliance is bringing together students, teachers, school leaders, and many others on Digital Learning Day to show the best practices in the use of classroom technology and move forward with a national digital learning agenda.”

Digital Learning Day enjoyed support from nearly fifty national core partners made up of education leadership organizations as well as generous support from more than twenty-five corporate partners. Digital Learning Day 2013 builds on last year’s inaugural event that included participation from thirty-nine states, 15,000 teachers, and 1.7 million students.

More information on Project 24 is available at https://all4ed.org/project24. More information on Digital Learning Day is available athttp://digitallearningday.org.

1 The Alliance is pleased to be working with the following national organizations to develop content and resources for Project 24: American Association of School Administrators; Council of Chief State School Officers; Consortium for School Networking; Digital Promise; Education Commission of the States; International Society for Technology in Education; Learning First Alliance; National Association of State Boards of Education; National Association of Secondary School Principals; National Board for Professional Teaching Standards; Rural School and Community Trust; and Software & Information Industry Association.

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