Tomorrow is Digital Learning Day. It’s meant as a way to draw attention to the need for digital learning in our schools, to showcase the potential of digital learning, and as a way to highlight what is happening in places where digital learning is taking place.
But I like some of the other conversations that take place because of the emphasis on digital learning. In some places we are talking about issues of access and equity. And we must go beyond buying the device when we think about access and equity. What are students doing with their digital devices? How is access to the digital transforming the learning process for students? What expectations come with the devices? What are student s expected to do outside of school? Even though many of these conversations take place on a small scale, they are important. And we need to have more of these conversations and keep equity (not just hardware) at the forefront of our thinking.
There are still many places where students don’t have regular access to digital tools. Or they are doing things on digital devices that simply replace what they were already doing without those tools, without changing the task in any significant way. Or teachers have a single computer or other device for use with a class full of students. Or teachers have a class full of devices without the background and professional learning to help them put them to effective use. Or they have devices and a lack of infrastructure…no way to work out the technical issues that inevitably plague working with the digital.
I’m lucky at my school. We are in our second year of 1:1 digital devices in my classroom and we have technical support available. I’ve been fortunate to work with many inspired and forward-thinking educators, especially my colleagues from Writing Project sites all over the country and throughout the state, who have modeled the potential of digital learning. My teaching partner is a willing risk-taker who will learn as she goes…and we support each other moving forward into the digital world that isn’t yet mapped out in the educational landscape.
That doesn’t mean that things are flawless in their operation or that moving toward digital doesn’t increase demands on my time as a teacher. It doesn’t make planning easy or learning effortless…my teaching partner and I spend precious time learning and relearning and helping our students navigate the inevitable technical difficulties that go with this digital territory.
And even though tomorrow is Digital Learning Day my students are doing digital learning every day. Our forty-plus six, seven, eight, and nine year olds have been working at getting their blogs designed and posts ready over the last few weeks. We discovered some new wrinkles in the way the Edublogs app works on our iPads this year…different than last year. You have the love the third grader who discovered the “back door” fix to uploading media to posts when the app says it won’t do it!
I’m more convinced than ever that “digital natives” and “digital immigrants” are simply the wrong terms to describe my students and their teachers (my teaching partner and me). But we are digital learners…together. And our students need and appreciate the guidance they get from us just as we appreciate their enthusiasm, effort, and ingenuity. As soon as I can get back to our class blog (maybe first thing in the morning), students’ first posts for this year will go public…I hope I can get to them all for Digital Learning Day.
And, we will launch into some digital stories tomorrow…in honor of the spirit of trying something new on Digital Learning Day.
What will you and your students be doing on Digital Learning Day? And how is it different from all the other days in your classroom?