As part of the 3rd annual Digital Learning Day, educational leaders from all over country descended upon the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. on February 5th. I had the honor of participating in a live panel ("Digital Learning: The Journey So Far") with former Governor Bob Wise, now the President for the Alliance for Excellent Education, and Mrs. Rebecca McLelland-Crawley, a science supervisor from the West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional School Districts in New Jersey (all pictured below). The topic? Blended learning.
The heart and soul of our conversation revolved around the ways schools are blending the learning of students, predominantly utilizing a model that is partly in a traditional environment, and partly in a robust online environment. The online environments include high quality digital resources available to help personalize the learning, based on each individual student’s needs. Students are able to both enrich and remediate with high quality digital content, while still receiving high quality classroom instruction.
Throughout the discussion, it became clear that computers will never replace the high quality instruction that occurs in a classroom. However, those teachers that use high quality digital content combined with strong instructional strategies will flatten the world for our students--and give them far great opportunities.
At one point during the conversation, I said, “We must prepare students for their future and not our past”--a quote that social media jumped all over, and with good reason. In this current generation of digital learners (or natives, as they are sometimes referred to), we adults are often the largest roadblocks. The schools that are most successful with digital learning practice and implementation have strong digital leaders whom create a culture of innovation and risk-taking. They cultivate that teacher leadership, and digital tools are ubiquitous. These technologies and online content are not used merely “in addition to” other classroom attributes.
Thus, an important message from the day came through: though we are not digital natives ourselves, we must take risks and try out new digital solutions in order to reach the students of today. At the end of the day, it's in the best interest of both ourselves and our students.
Although critics of such events will maintain that we shouldn’t pull out individual aspects of education to celebrate, or that celebrating digital learning on one day is pointless, I view days like Digital Learning Day as fire starters--igniting and inspiring other so that digital learning can become a way of life in schools throughout America. And this year’s event did just that.
Listed above is only a glimpse of what transpired throughout Digital Learning Day. Make sure to check the archives when available at www.digitallearningday.org. To see the day’s event and major themes moment by moment, check out the #dlday hashtag or @officialdlday handle on Twitter.