Transform Education with Digital Learning
By Jeb Bush, Bob Wise, and Michael B. Horn
All children should have an education that allows them to maximize their human potential and pursue their loftiest dreams. Through the power of digital learning, we can transform the American education system to make that elusive vision a reality.
Everyone has different learning needs at different times. We all have different background knowledge, experiences and aptitudes. And everyone learns at different paces. Digital learning can customize and personalize education for those differences.
Today’s education does the opposite. Based on a factory-style model for the industrial age, the system was designed for efficiency, not excellence. Standardizing the way it teaches and tests made it possible to educate the masses. Unfortunately, the result is that 30 percent of students drop out before earning a high school degree, and another 30 percent graduate without being college or career ready.
In today’s information-age economy, failing to properly educate such large numbers of students is detrimental both to the children and the country. Personalizing an education for each student is critical to maximizing all students’ chances for success in school and beyond.
Digital learning is the great equalizer. With it, every student—from those in rural communities to those in the inner cities—can access high-quality and rigorous courses and highly effective teachers in every subject, including foreign languages, math and science. This can happen today.
As two former governors and the author of Disrupting Class, we know that a road map is crucial for mapping out how digital learning can succeed and have the transformational impact the country needs. During the past several months in the Digital Learning Council (DLC), we worked with more than 100 leaders in education, government, philanthropy, business, technology and think tanks to create the road map that lawmakers and policymakers must take to spark this educational revolution.
With the release Wednesday of the DLC’s recommendations in the “10 Elements of High Quality Digital Learning,” we now have a way forward to shift our education system from an analog one to a digital one.
It won’t happen overnight. And there is still much work to do that requires translating the road map into policy and actions.
But with a focus on moving from our antiquated policies that focus on inputs—like seat time regulations and class-size ratios — to ones that reward quality outcomes—like competency-based measures for each individual—we can make this historic and needed transformation.
Many of these recommendations focus on eliminating the barriers to access and providing all children with access to whatever learning they might need no matter their geography or income. Only then can we maintain digital learning’s inherent nature of being agnostic to where one lives and what one’s income bracket is.
But seeing the majority of high school students taking online courses and providing every student with access to digital learning 10 years from now will not constitute a victory in and of itself.
The real goal is ensuring these digital opportunities are of a high quality for each individual. That means that we cannot simply focus on extending access, we must also drive quality. That is why the DLC’s other recommendations are focused around student outcomes—from student learning being the metric to define the quality of content and instruction to instituting a state-funding model that pays providers in installments to incentivize completion and achievement.
All of the DLC’s recommendations rightly focus on the student because every child should have a high-quality education personalized to his or her needs. Our country’s future depends upon it. And now, with digital learning, we have a way to deliver it.
Bush, governor of Florida from 1999 to 2007, is the chairman of the Foundation for Excellence in Education and served as co-chairman of the Digital Learning Council. Wise served as governor of West Virginia from 2001 to 2005 and is currently the president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and served as co-chairman of the Digital Learning Council. Horn is the co-founder and executive director, Education of Innosight Institute, co-author of Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns and was a member of the Digital Learning Council.