Digital Learning Opportunities - Expanding Options forStudents and Schools
The world is rapidly changing, and we must ensure that our education system prepares students to be successful in a future that continues to foster innovation and change in a way that is difficult to predict. Empowered and emboldened by the changes underway, we must take a serious step to reframe quality, accountability, and access to do everything in our power to ensure that each and every student is prepared for their future with a student-centered, world-class education.
Digital learning, in the form of blended and online education, is fundamentally changing what is means to "go to school" for millions of students in our country. No longer is "school" defined solely by a physical space, or classrooms with desks and a teacher at the center. Nor does the curriculum that the student is required to navigate have to be a one size fits all students model, where assessments and data are used more as an autopsy of a student's performance rather than a tool for making immediate modifications to meet students' needs and abilities. Through advancements in technologies, improved administrative and teacher preparation programs, and greater access to curriculum resources that are engaging, interactive, and rooted in capturing student performance data, American schools have the ability to personalize learning and focus on each student's learning gains and competencies like no other time before now. So why is every school in America not delivering this type of educational opportunity for students? The reasons are plenty and vary from district to district, indeed, from one state to the next. Common responses to this question include: lack of funding; the ability to recruit teachers into the profession (and keep quality teachers);
While all of these are legitimate challenges and concerns, an over-arching dilemma that education leaders often face when attempting to implement innovative learning models are policies, both at the district, state, and federal level that create barriers to innovative educational practices. Simply put, while many current policies may have been well suited for the time that they were enacted, they fail to foster the type of 21st century learning environments that our schools are challenged to create in order to prepare students for success.
Examples of these policies include, but are not limited to:
- Funding formulas that place a priority on seat-time, not actual learning gains.
- Imposing geographic barriers of where one may go school, in a world where digital learning has made learning opportunities accessible worldwide.
- Restricting students access to online and blended learning opportunities as a means to preserve the traditional school model.
It is time to move away from traditional assumptions about how schools should look, how teachers should teach, and how students should learn. These assumptions too often restrict learning to physical buildings, bell schedules, credit hours, and static, paper-based learning materials. Many of these assumptions are further reinforced by federal, state, and local governments that incorporate them through outdated compliance requirements and funding structures.
Our education system must break free from these traditional views so it can adequately prepare students for success in college, career, and the global economy. Fortunately, a growing number of districts and states have begun to think about the next step to increase equity, rigor, and relevance in the system, increasing achievement for students who have been under-served, and opening new opportunities for advancement. Using college and career-ready standards as the foundation, these innovators envision a system in which students master deeper, aligned competencies that provide graduates with the skills to navigate the demands of an increasingly dynamic global economy. Their success rests heavily on adoption of a new student-centered policy framework that will advance the growth of competency education.New Jersey Online Learning ServicesIs your district or school planning to implement blended or online learning options for students? Whether you are in the "fact-finding" stage of looking at these relatively new learning options for students, or well down the path of implementation, you should make time to join us each month for our monthly New Jersey Online Learning Services webinar series. The webinars are free to attend. You can register at: NJASA/NJOLS Monthly Webinars
Additionally, NJOLS will have sessions at the upcoming NJASA TECHSPO 2015 in Atlantic City. (Jan. 29-30, 2015) Please check the schedule and plan to join us for these informational opportunities.