In Search of a Digital Learning Plan

Today marks the third annual Digital Learning Day – a nationwide campaign to highlight the use of online learning programs in K-12 education. As a former educator and current Director of an education organization that incorporates online learning, I can attest to the value added of using even a few of the phenomenally designed online learning applications now available. It’s hard not to marvel at programs that allow students to converse with climbers on Mt. Everest (an extreme but real example) or to take an online tutorial, which can foster a deeper understanding of a subject that seemed trivial in class. The depth and range of digital learning applications reaching classrooms in DC and beyond is undoubtedly enhancing the learning experience.

DC Public Schools and some of the city’s Charter Schools have been ahead of the national curve in purchasing digital learning platforms. Here (and around the country) though, this spending splurge has resulted in classrooms equipped with thousands of dollars of technology that is seldom used, partly because teachers are not properly trained in its implementation. Students and teachers ultimately miss out on the great potential of digital learning when schools focus on acquisition without having clear goals for usage and training.

As the menu of digital learning options expands with each click of the mouse, the dire need for schools and the larger education community to establish a clear digital learning plan needs to be a top priority. Without a thorough plan, we essentially enable another thousand smart boards and databases to be purchased, even though they are not being effectively used in the classroom. So what can states, districts, and school networks do to establish a digital learning plan? Here are three steps.

First, clear learning goals need to be defined for each grade and course so we can better target the types of digital learning platforms needed. Digital learning programs must enhance our ability to accomplish established learning goals, whether in the form of independent, state-based, or Common Core standards. Second, schools need leaders who understand and can vet digital learning opportunities. Finally, teachers need to be adequately trained in the digital learning platforms they are using to ensure that they are implemented as effectively and seamlessly as possible. 

Technology is the medium through which many students communicate, see the world, and express themselves once the school day ends. Not replicating these familiar tools in a way that can be used during the school day would be a missed opportunity. The digital learning movement is not slowing down, nor should it, but if the education community can slow down just enough to create a strong, comprehensive, digital learning plan, the benefits will be realized for teachers and students alike.


Thanks Eric for this inquisitive posting. I may add that the education system promotes the Common Core Standards with college readiness. The lack of technology, which represents only one aspect of what the students and teachers are missing on a daily basis, seems antithetical to the school goals/mission in facilitating our kids to becoming college and/or career ready in the 21st century.

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