Time To Power Up Digital Learning
By: Governor, Bob Wise, President of the Alliance for Excellent Education
Published: March 18, 2011
Today’s high school students use technology to connect with friends, share photographs, play games, and do many other things that used to not involve a keyboard. For these young people, using the internet or a cell phone is as commonplace as using a toothbrush. So it is time we stop asking them to power down when they go to school and instead to power up and use their interest in technology and social networking as a new way to learn.
Digital learning is any type of learning that effectively utilizes technology to support a high-quality education. It includes, but is not limited to, online classes and the use of technology in a traditional classroom to create a blended approach to teaching using SMART boards, educational gaming, and internet devices. It offers students the chance to have a more personalized learning environment where they can work at their own pace, moving on when they master a subject or take extra time in an area where they need more help. It can also provide all students, regardless of their location, with access to a number of high-quality subjects that may not be available in their individual schools, including foreign languages, math, and science.
Not only does digital learning make sense for the nation’s students, it also presents a solution to three major crises currently facing the U.S. education system. First, our nation stands to lose a large number of teachers over the next few years due to low retention rates and large-scale retirements. Online learning can strengthen the workforce and bring high-quality content to reach students wherever they live. Teachers can also use technology as a professional development and networking tool to learn and share successful classroom practices.
Another major challenge is the looming funding cliff for state and local school districts. The current fiscal environment does not allow for continued education spending increases in most state budgets. Investing in online learning offers cost-efficient benefits such as reusing online course content, seamlessly connecting teachers to students across many schools, and spreading similar costs over multiple learning sites.
The last issue that online learning helps schools address is improving student achievement and increasing high school and college graduation rates. According to a 2009 U.S. Department of Education study, students who took all or part of their classes online did better than students in face-to-face classrooms, and the advantage was even stronger in blended classrooms than in online-only classrooms.
Last year, I was pleased to work with former Florida Governor Jeb Bush to launch the Digital Learning Council (DLC), a diverse group of more than fifty leaders from education, government, philanthropy, business, technology. The council released the “10 Elements of High-Quality Digital Learning,” a set of recommendations designed to provide a road-map for states to identify policies that will integrate current and future technological innovations into public education.
The DLC’s proposals rightly focus on the student because every child should have access to a high-quality education that is personalized to his or her needs. Our country’s future depends upon it. Now, with digital learning, we have a way to deliver it.
About the Contributor
Bob Wise is president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia. This article touches on many of the ideas he presented during his keynote address at the recent EIA 11th Annual Education Industry Days conference in Washington, DC. Governor Wise’s presentation is available to EIA members via the EIA website at www.educationindustry.org.