5 questions on digital learning

Recently, NC State University hosted The Future Ready Summit at the Friday Institute. Look at the map and you will see other states hosting summits. Before we get into the 5 questions on digital learning, let’s agree technology is a tool which can be used in a positive way in classrooms but it does come with costs, monetary and non-monetary. From NC State News, we learn North Carolina is leading the way and strengthening ties to Washington DC:

NC State is hosting the national kickoff of a bold new effort to help school districts make the most of digital learning. The Future Ready Summit Feb. 11-12 at the Friday Institute is helping school districts in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia create their own digital learning plans. NC State is partnering with the the Alliance for Excellent Education, the White House and the U.S. Department of Education on 12 summits across the nation this spring.

Below are the questions, I won’t include all responses you can read the full answers here:

  1. Why is this a critical time to focus on digital learning?
  1. Why was NC State chosen to host the first of the Future Ready Summit sessions?

The Friday Institute at NC State was chosen because of its commitment to innovation in education, its experience in leading digital learning initiatives, like the NC Digital Learning Plan and the Digital Learning Transition MOOC-Ed, and its expertise in designing and implementing professional learning opportunities. The Friday Institute is a Future Ready coalition partner and has been integral in developing content for the summits. Nancy Mangum and I from the Friday Institute will be moderating several of the summits, and the Friday Institute developed and will lead the Professional Learning strand. Our colleagues Lauren Acree, Abbey Futrell and Mark Samberg will facilitate professional learning sessions at the summits.

Who are the Future Ready coalition partners? Yes indeed, we see familiar names with funding from many of the groups pushing Common Core, national assessments and data collection.

  1. Describe the Future Ready Summit’s purpose.

The Future Ready Summit is designed to provide school district teams, which include superintendents, with the opportunity to understand where they are in the digital learning transition, learn about strategies and action steps that will support their efforts to become Future Ready, collaborate with experts and other districts to further their work and have dedicated team time.

Each team is bringing a Future Ready self-assessment that they took prior to the summit, and they will have a chance to further their knowledge and develop an action plan for the digital learning transition. They should leave with specific steps to continue the work. More information on the summit is online.

  1. Bring us up to date on efforts to improve digital learning in North Carolina schools.

North Carolina is well positioned to continue to be a leader in the transition to digital learning. The Friday Institute is in the process of developing the NC Digital Learning Plan. This is a comprehensive effort to understand the assets and needs in digital learning across the state, involves extensive research and stakeholder input, and includes site visits to 16 districts and several charter schools across the state…

  1. What are the biggest challenges schools face related to digital learning?

Although districts and schools are making progress in the digital learning transition, they face many challenges. The key in this transition is that the digital learning strives for a transformation to student-centered, personalized learning to meet the needs of each student. The emphasis is on the learning, rather than just digital. Districts have to ensure that administrators and educators have the capacity to implement digital learning, as it is a continuously evolving area. This requires ongoing, job-embedded professional learning opportunities to provide them with the tools and resources they need. Another struggle for districts is adequate access to devices and Internet, especially at home. Districts are also working to transition to digital content, which raises many questions about open education resources, teacher created materials and subscriptions, rather than traditional textbooks. Lastly, funding also emerges as a consistent challenge. This transition often includes several initial costs, as well as ongoing expenses that need to be planned for in order to ensure the support and resources needed for the digital learning transition.

When it comes to digital learning, there are many more questions to ask.  Did you notice not one word is said about privacy or parents? The Friday Institute, BEST NC and other influential groups are moving legislation through the General Assembly; are you engaged? Are elected representatives asking for your input?

Last week, I wrote about legislation, House Bill 660 Transition to Personalized Digital Learning featuring the Friday Institute. Digital learning has a direct link to Common Core Standards through assessments and curriculum so we need to stay engaged. Digital learning also means data collection which always results in data mining.

After reading the NC State article, the push to pass HB 66o makes sense. The Bill was filed on April 13th and passed the House on April 29th without any revisions. The bill is now in the Senate moving quickly; track it here. Will anyone in the State Senate take a close look at the bill or will they rubber stamp approval? The bill is only three pages long. Is it too much to ask for elected officials to read, understand and debate before voting?  Will anyone propose amendments or is the General Assembly supportive of ceding more power to unelected educrats and nonprofit organizations?

In case you were wondering, the Alliance for Excellent Education has received over $19 million is grant money from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.