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Reflections on Digital Learning Then and Now

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January 23, 2014 08:47 am

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This guest blog post comes from Cheryl Williams, Executive Director of the Learning First Alliance.

As someone who has advocated for the appropriate use of new and emerging technologies for teaching, learning, and district operations in America’s public schools for more than 25 years, the 2014 Digital Learning Day celebration and this opportunity to participate in that celebration  give me much to reflect on.  In many ways the classroom practices and district operations being showcased engender optimism for the lens they offer into how far we’ve come in enlarging the pool of innovative educators leading exciting learning experiences for their students.  But in other ways, the issues, challenges, barriers, and conversation have remained the same for more than two decades.  A few examples—

  • Innovations being showcased are pockets of excellence in schools where strong leadership supports risk taking and experimentation
  • Technical capacity and bandwidth continue to be insufficient in many schools to support even the most enthusiastic educators in their technology-supported lesson planning
  • Human capacity and expertise continue to lag in most districts with increased professional learning required to incorporate and support new learning opportunities
  • Rigid school calendars, class structures, policies and standardized testing for “accountability” are barriers for innovation and project based learning that technology supports
  • Insufficient funding levels and flexibility make needed investments in equipment, connectivity, and support challenging.

On the other hand, there is reason to be optimistic that we’re moving in the right direction and one obvious example, of course, is the growth and impact of Digital Learning Day and the range of supporters, partners, and participants.

Other important reasons to be optimistic about more widespread use of technology to support learning in the digital world include—

  • Devices that support digital content and global communication, i.e. tablets, cell phones, smaller laptops, have come down in price and are owned by just about every young person and educator
  • Comfort levels with the capabilities these devices allow and the range of resources available digitally have increased among education professionals
  • Awareness of possibilities for use of digital resources for learning has become more widespread among parents and the general public, thus increasing support for use of new tools and capabilities
  • Political leaders from both parties think “digital” is cool, mitigating political disagreements over adoption of new technology for learning
  • Almost everyone agrees that we now live in a global society and the technology, connectivity, and digital resources provide a gateway to learning about and understanding the larger world.

Digital Learning Day provides the opportunity for all of us who work in and care about public education to celebrate the exciting work educators across the country are engaged in and set our sights on what needs to be done to ensure that all our students have access to and support for learning how to be a global citizen in a digital world. Join the movement and show your support by taking the pledge today!

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Digital Learning Day

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