6 Common Questions Answered About Digital Learning
We’re 3 months into 2019, and we hope your school year is going great so far! But, that means that there’s still a ton of time to learn more about edtech, improve on current practices in your classroom, and get you thinking about new and creative ideas to incorporate. Earlier this year, Schoology released all of the data from our 2018 State of Digital Learning in K-12 Education study. It was filled with information about learning trends, challenges and priorities, PLCs, instructional approaches, and much more.
So, we thought it would be a good idea to take a deeper dive into this study and determine what educators really needed to know to be successful. In our webinar on March 6th, we had Kellie Ady, Senior Director of Instructional Strategy, and Joe Vassallo, Product Engagement Specialist, join us to discuss these important themes.
If you missed it or want a recap, check out the full webinar below.
During the webinar, we had a ton of great questions come in that we thought all educators could benefit from hearing the answers to. So, we figured we’d take the time to answer them now.
1. What is digital learning and why should I be focusing on it?
Living in a digital world, It’s crucial to meet students where they are in order to enable them to be successful and reach their full potential. Digital learning tools and technology help to strengthen efficiency and productivity - students are able to identify a problem, find information online and apply findings. Offering digital learning tools and technology allows for more creativity and engaging methods that extend outside lectures and textbooks. Technology and tools are used in higher education and the workforce, so it helps students to be career and college ready.
If you want to learn more, we also published a blog post, 5 Simple Reasons for Introducing Digital Learning in the Classroom, that can elaborate more on this.
2. How can I convince my district administrators we need to be investing more in digital learning?
It helps to explore what the vision is for learning as digital tools can address student learning needs in ways that non-digital approaches can't. That might be the need for equity or giving students flexibility in how they demonstrate learning or even differentiating. To learn more about exploring vision, see here.
Often, people don’t like change because they don’t understand the change. It helps to educate teachers/admins about the benefits of technology and how it’ll impact student performance and outcomes.
Let’s take an LMS for instance. It helps to show admins why the school or district should make the change. If teachers understand how a full-fledged LMS will save them time, improve their effectiveness and increase student engagement, they’re more likely to welcome change. We’ve also seen a lot of districts bring multiple stakeholders into the evaluation process to advocate for what they need in a tool. As a starting point, check out this blog post on how to effectively drive transformation.
3. What positions or careers support the shift to digital learning?
Technology is a native language for many of our students. By helping teachers facilitate the use of technology in the classroom, instructional technologists, technology coordinators, curriculum designers, and instructional technology coaches have a major impact on student learning - no matter what you call them. Let’s take a closer look at two careers in digital learning.
Instructional Technologists are also referred to as Technology Coordinators, Instructional Technology Coaches, or Technology Integration Specialists. While the titles vary by school or district, the main responsibility of an Instructional Technologist is to collaborate with teachers and administrators to facilitate the use of technology in the classroom and beyond.
With impeccable organizational skills, an aptitude for teaching, and a love for technology, Instructional Technologists are able to support teaching and learning by providing the appropriate tools and resources for the task at the right time.
Much of the responsibility of a Curriculum Designer is developing and continually improving curricula, while assessing its effectiveness for learning and teaching. Improvements are made through research and testing of new teaching strategies, instructional approaches, learning styles and materials.
Curriculum Designers need to have an affinity for lifelong learning and tolerance for change. It’s imperative that they be willing to break old habits and shift their mindsets as new technologies, information, and resources emerge. By being adaptable and staying ahead of the curve, Curriculum Designers are able to suggest and help implement innovative ideas that enhance student learning and inspire the growth of teachers.
You can read the full article here.
4. How can PD be more effective?
Providing relevant and effective PD was the top challenge admins faced in 2017-18, as well as the top priority for 2019. Take a look at the five most common types of PD offered by districts:
- Periodic workshops
- Single-session workshops
- In-class observation
- Regular ongoing coaching
These are all great types of PD, but are they enough? If the end goal is student achievement, it’s crucial to put them at the heart of it all.
Student achievement is directly correlated with and affected by teacher professional learning and effectiveness. It’s important for teachers to practice what they preach - whether its values, tools or technology. Whatever teachers are using in the classroom to help their students, they should understand how to use from their end. If teachers were using an LMS we would recommend these five ways to enhance PD.
5. How does an LMS help a school or district with digital learning?
This is a great question. We’re going to break this up into two different benefits - classroom benefit and district benefit. Before we do that though, it’s crucial we remember what’s at the heart of digital learning - the students. We recently published a blog post on How to use Digital Learning to Enhance Student Achievement.
From a classroom perspective
A full-fledged LMS will provide teachers with better integrations for tech tools and SISs. Schoology is a unified system that brings all your learning tools together, district-wide. The average teacher uses 8-12 tech tools each day in addition to their SIS. That means that in order for teachers to gain a true picture of their students' progress, they have to jump around from system to system. If it’s confusing for teachers, think about how the students and parents feel. They jump around from tool to tool with different logins and are unsure of where to access and submit their work. So while all the tech tools may look really exciting when you walk into the classroom, it is essential to take a look at how these tools are actually impacting student learning and teacher effectiveness. A tech tool can be really interesting but if it doesn’t improve learning, it’s not really valuable.
From a district perspective
Well, we may be biased, so we turned to our friend Malcolm McKinsey, Teacher and Curriculum Leader at Pleasant Valley Intermediate School located in Kunkletown, Pennsylvania. He said it perfectly.
“For educators, an LMS is infinitely personalized, so work generated by the educator can be tailored to the needs of every student
For students, the learning experience is more complete, more intimate, and more meaningful than mass-produced learning paths
For administrators, an LMS saves you time and money; it is easy to implement with a shallow learning curve for users
For parents, an LMS gives immediate, timely results and improved communication
For taxpayers, an LMS can be leveraged to provide income through billable online courses for adult learners and students outside a school district; it is also a highly cost-effective way to handle enormous amounts of live data”
Need we say more? Read the full post from Malcolm here.
6. What are some examples of ways I can bring digital learning into the classroom?
After discovering all of the benefits of utilizing digital learning in education, you may be wondering how you can put this idea into action in your own classroom. Below, we have a few ideas to help you get started.
- Go on a field trip without leaving the classroom
- Have students submit a video, Google doc, or voice clip as an assignment or quiz
- Find out what tools some of the teachers in your school/district are using
- Most importantly, listen to students. Give them the choice to use a laptop, Chromebook or pen and paper
There are an endless amount of ways in addition to these that you can bring digital learning into your classroom. Share some of your ideas with us on Twitter @Schoology