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SEIZING THE OPPORTUNITY: Alliance Report Offers Federal Recommendations on Digital Learning and Technology

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“America has only begun to scratch the surface of what is possible with technology and digital learning in the area of education.”

Drawing upon promising educational practices already underway in several states, a new report from the Alliance for Excellent Education connects how federal efforts can enable states, districts, and schools to maximize technology and digital learning to improve student outcomes. To ensure that all students have access to this advanced educational environment, the report recommends specific ways for the federal government to assist local and state educators to better utilize technology and digital learning to transform the American education system.

“America has only begun to scratch the surface of what is possible with technology and digital learning in the area of education,” said Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education, cochair of Digital Learning Now! (DLN), and former governor of West Virginia.

“Now is the time for digital learning,” said Jeb Bush, chairman of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, cochair of DLN, and former governor of Florida. “Through technology, we can provide every student access to a high-quality education that is tailored to their learning pace, style, and interests. Yet, the U.S. education system currently operates as an eight-track tape in an iPod world. Students deserve better. The “10 Elements of High-Quality Digital Learning” is a roadmap to unleash the power of digital learning in education.”

According to the report, “Digital Learning and Technology: Federal Policy Recommendations to Seize the Opportunity—and Promising Practices That Inspire Them,” many districts and schools have already implemented programs that are changing student outcomes and the teaching and learning processes. Pointing to examples in Alabama, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Wyoming, the report shows how technology and digital learning are helping states and districts increase equity and access; improve teacher and administrator effectiveness and productivity; and boost student achievement and outcomes.

The report also notes that states and districts require dedicated support and leadership to build technological infrastructure, design policies, and use tools and resources that can transform teaching and learning for all students. Additionally, effective technology application will assist implementation of common core state standards—now adopted by forty-four states and the District of Columbia—as states and districts work together to develop new content, instructional strategies, assessments, and educator professional development.

“Given the many challenges currently facing the nation’s education system, our nation cannot afford to miss the opportunities that technology and digital learning offer,” Wise said. “Technology and digital learning can act as a ‘force multiplier’ to help states, districts, and schools ensure that all students can meet high standards and graduate prepared for college and a career in the midst of tough budgetary environments, increased global demands on student abilities, and growing teacher shortages in critical areas.”

The report highlights several opportunities where the federal government can support the implementation of effective digital learning. A top priority is major congressional action to enact a new Elementary and Secondary Education Act, currently known as No Child Left Behind, which the federal government can use to encourage states and districts to expand the roles of technology and digital learning to help all students meet higher academic expectations. Specifically, the report calls on the federal government to

  • infuse technology throughout education programs;
  • provide a dedicated technology program to ensure leadership and innovation;
  • build on the recently released National Education Technology Plan and National Broadband Plan models and recommendations in new legislation;
  • invest in ongoing research and innovation; and
  • encourage states to implement the “10 Elements of High-Quality Digital Learning,” released by DLN.

“Although education is primarily administered at the local and state levels, the federal government still has an important role to play in ensuring that all students can benefit from technology and digital learning,” said Wise. “The creation of policies that encourage and provide options for digital learning and technology—as well as the continued sharing of lessons learned and promising practices—are critical to significantly increasing learning for students in every state and school district.”

“Digital Learning and Technology” is available at https://all4ed.org/files/DigitalLearning.pdf.

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