Integrating Digital Learning

Today was Digital Learning Day.  And I’m all for focusing attention on digital learning to cast a spotlight and encourage more widespread participation.  But I’m also thinking about the ways digital learning doesn’t fit in a day.

A glance at my Twitter feed today showed students blogging, making movies, writing arguments, voicing opinions, speaking out against bullying, creating digital stories, exploring stop motion animation, using QR codes, tweeting 6 word literacy memoirs, having silent discussions on digital discussion boards…and lots of collaboration, experimentation, and students and teachers learning together.  I’m excited that so many of the examples of digital learning I saw were about students creating and producing rather than a passive use of the digital.

But I’m wishing for an “Integrating Digital Learning” day or week or month or year.  I feel like we need a push for districts and schools and educators to think carefully about the ways digital learning can and should be integrated into the overall school curriculum,  We could still have a “try something new” with Digital Learning Day to encourage experimentation and push educators and students to continue their learning about the possibilities of digital learning, but also focus attention on intentional integration of digital learning…which would also highlight the very real needs related to digital integration.

It’s hard to integrate digital learning when you don’t have access to digital devices, or when the internet is spotty…or sites you need access to are blocked.  When the digital devices can’t be depended on, it’s hard to make plans to seamlessly integrate their use into the day to day plans for learning.

As we talked about Digital Learning Day with our students this morning, they reminded us of ways we use digital tools that have become so commonplace that we take them for granted. They pointed out that we (their teachers) use our computers (and printer)  to print their math “sticker problems” and we depend on our Apple TV devices to allow us to share work wirelessly from our laptops…and our students to share their work from their iPads.  We use the document camera to display song lyrics and share poetry and computers for showing digital video clips.  My teaching partner and I also regularly use our phones to snap photos of students in action, documenting and highlighting student learning.

And then there are the iPads.  Many of our students gather in the classroom before school to work on programming with Hopscotch, continue a blog post, or practice math on a district-wide digital math program.  They love this informal “workshop” where they share discoveries and support each other in this unstructured learning environment.

We aim for our devices to become as invisible as pencils and paper.  Today we needed to count the money we had raised for our micro loan.  We suggested that students use the whiteboard function of Educreations to keep track of their calculations as they counted a portion of the cash.  They document their process…and we don’t need paper.  (Although we did have one group who found that they needed paper and pencil!)

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We also embarked on our digital story project…an opportunity for students to tell the story of our micro loan project.  Students examined an example of a digital story, noticed the parts, considered potential tools, and set to work. In teams they will develop a digital story, so today was all about the planning…figuring out what story they will need to tell in their finished product.  They are already talking about the iterations they will need to go through…and can’t wait to draw pictures to digitize!  This is not a one-day project.  We hope they will be done by the end of next week!

The biggest difference for us on this Digital Learning Day was that we highlighted, both in class and publicly, the ways digital learning takes place in our class.  Digital learning is becoming routine in our classroom, and we often don’t notice whether we are using digital tools or not.  Some of our most successful digital projects often include more traditional classroom tools like pencils, paper, paint, and books as part of the digital process.  And I think that is what we want with digital learning.  Digital is another option.  Sometimes it’s the best option, sometimes it’s not necessary…but it’s nice when we can choose to use what works best, not what is least expensive.

Although Digital Learning Day has come and gone, our students will continue their digital learning.  What will learning look like in your classroom tomorrow?  How do you integrate digital learning in your teaching and your students’ learning?

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