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Step forward with Digital Learning Day 2013

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December 11, 2012 02:07 pm


The following blog post comes from Cheryl Williams, the executive director of the Learning First Alliance, which is a core partner of Digital Learning Day. Learn more about Digital Learning Day at

As I ponder Digital Learning Day, another collaborative effort by leaders in education to communicate the potential of advances in technology to support teaching and learning, I’m reminded of the immortal words of baseball great, Yogi Berra, “It’s déjà vu all over again.”

While I’ve been an advocate for technology’s appropriate use in the classroom for more years than many of today’s teachers have been alive, I want to use that wisdom (or cynicism….you decide) to remind us what’s important about the Digital Learning Day initiative. I’m optimistic that we are at that point in time when significant change and progress can be made by bringing the promises of the digital world to our schools, students, teachers and communities.

For nearly three decades, technology-using educators have labored to explain and demonstrate creative uses of emerging tools and interactive content in meeting the needs of a variety of learning styles, as well as assisting in engaging reluctant learners. Somehow the conversation among policymakers, parents and community leaders always focuses on the tool or technology, rather than the new approaches and access to information that the technology makes possible.

The early adopter educators with whom I was lucky to work and learn from exhibited a unique set of skills:  they were comfortable with the new gizmos and operating systems, AND they were talented teachers who genuinely liked young people and understood good pedagogy.  Admittedly, those teachers were, at the beginning, a rare breed.  Such is no longer the case.  Technology is now ubiquitous in all our lives, with the unfortunate exception of many schools.

However, with the range of more affordable tools, expansion of broadband networks, and digitization of information, it should now be easier for all of us – both educators and non-educators – to envision a technology-rich learning environment. This technology-driven environment would enable teacher and learner alike to interact with knowledge sources from around the nation and the world. Even better, technology will allow students and teachers to create original projects and products that demonstrate the skills gained through access to the digital world.

The teacher is an even more essential component in guiding the learning experience now, with the advent of technology and the digital world, than before. In a classroom that utilizes technology, teachers guide the learning experience by providing the context for information gathering and the wisdom of experience to mediate complex concepts. In our increasingly complicated and digital world, the relationship of teacher and learner, whether in person or remotely, is essential for student success.

It’s my hope that the 2013 Digital Learning Day will encourage all of us to support increased adoption of technology-rich teaching and learning environments, as well as  the strong teachers and education leaders who make it possible. It is the educators who have a deep knowledge and understanding of human development and learning theory that will ensure the digital learning environment is well used.

Cheryl Williams is the executive director of the Learning First Alliance, which is a core partner of Digital Learning Day. Learn more about Digital Learning Day at


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