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Robyn Young: Digital Learning: So Much More Than Just Using Technology in the Classroom

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July 11, 2012 02:48 pm

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The following blog post comes from Robyn Young, the school librarian at Avon High School and the Avon Advanced Learning Center in Avon, Indiana. She is a former Media Specialist of the Year in the State of Indiana.

I’ve been pondering the concept of digital learning lately because so many people have different ideas about what it means.  At a recent conference at the Caddo Parish Schools in Shreveport, Louisiana, I asked the teachers, “What is Digital Learning?” and the wide variety of responses was very telling.  The teachers gave me words such as technology, individualization, and student-centered to describe the concept and I think they were very correct.  But digital learning goes beyond that to a change in the way that we are teaching our students and the way in which students are learning.

Digital learning isn’t about using technology in the classroom.  It’s about a change in the way we think about using technology in the classroom.  It’s not just for the teacher to use in a presentation or the student to create a project, although it can include this aspect.  It’s really about changing everything that we do.  It’s about meeting students where they are as it relates to technology and taking them further than you or they could imagine.

But before we are able to get to the point of taking students to the next level, we need to discuss the technological ability of many of our students.  The term “digital native” is thrown around a lot, with an assumption that older teachers who are not digital natives aren’t as familiar or aware of the ways in which to use technology in the classroom.  This also assumes that our students all know how to utilize all aspects of technology because they were born around it.  Those of us who have taught for a while know that this just isn’t true.  We do have a digital divide that often relates to the socio-economic status of our students, but I’ve also found that you can be great at teaching digital learning even if you aren’t aware of all of the latest technological advances because it is about trusting your students enough to let them learn.  This goes for students who are very technologically aware along with those who are not.

So many teachers feel that in order to teach students a concept, they must know everything about that particular idea, but this just isn’t true.  Sure, we have to have a basic understanding of technology and how it is used, but digital learning is about good teaching.  If you provide opportunities for your students to learn, and provide the support for them to do so (whether it is from you as the classroom teacher or a school librarian), your students will surprise you with all that they are capable of doing.  Our students are often experts in playing games and using social media, but allowing them the freedom to choose their technology as an educational tool can be a compelling reason for them to learn even more.

This takes trust in your students, along with a dose of classroom management, but creating these opportunities and allowing for student input changes the teaching game.  It engages students in a way in which they have never before been engaged.  It lets the students know that they are in charge of their learning, not that they are learning because the teacher said so.

I think back to my days as a student and remember asking teachers why we had to learn a specific concept.  Of course, we still need to have a common understanding of certain concepts, but digital learning allows the students to choose what they are learning and why.  It allows for individualized instruction and personal learning in a way that has never been done before.  This makes learning relevant to the student and puts the student in charge of their learning, thus making digital learning about so much more than just using technology in the classroom.

Robyn Young is the school librarian at Avon High School and the Avon Advanced Learning Center in Avon, Indiana. She is a former Media Specialist of the Year in the State of Indiana. Contact Robyn at rryoung@avon-schools.org or on Twitter @ahsbooks. Learn more about Digital Learning Day at http://www.digitallearningday.org.

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Digital Learning Series

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