Digital Learning Day is Over…Now What?
If you took the time to understand what Digital Learning Day truly stands for, then you know it wasn’t about a single day, nor was it exclusively about technology. And it certainly wasn’t a technological dog and pony show. Digital Learning Day’s partnering organizations including the Center for Digital Learning Policy, the Alliance for Excellent Education and Project 24 provide in-depth resources on a wide spectrum of education topics; everything from closing the achievement gap, to economic impacts and rural schools. It’s clear these organizations are committed to improving public education for every student in our nation’s schools. And despite the name “digital learning day” in no way does this improvement plan center exclusively around using the latest device or app. If you followed #DLDay on Twitter, you saw the consistent message is to focus on student learning first and then decide which technology tools can support that learning. That being said, the organizations do advocate for equal access to technology. Anytime, anywhere learning is the foundation for effective digital teaching and learning. And to deny our students won’t need digital literacy skills to be competitive in a global economy is doing them a great disservice.
My Digital Learning Day “Celebration”
Along with thousands of other educators across the country, my students and I celebrated Digital Learning Day. To be honest, it was business as usual in Burlington. We didn’t have any sort of ribbon cutting ceremony or balloons to recognize the learning that occurs daily not only in my classroom but throughout my district, however I did want to share my (typical) digital learning day experience. It was a blend of tech and non-tech activities and mirrored a similar Friday I had written about right around this time last year. This year Google created an Auto Awesome photo of day which you can check out here. It includes scenes from not only my classes, but work from some of my colleagues.
Connecting on Digital Learning Day: Locally, Nationally, and Globally
Digital Learning Day began with my Help Desk student Cat Hoyt learning about makerspaces from two industry experts through facilitating a Google Hangout On Air. Help Desk Live-Episode 21 was the official activity I added to the DLD website. Cat’s reflection about her learning experience can be found on the BHS Help Desk blog. Previous Help Desk Live episodes can be seen on the Help Desk Live YouTube channel.
The next period, my student Manas conducted a small focus group with my colleagues Renee Dacey, our World Language Department Chair, and French teacher Susan Price. The two provided Manas with feedback on the new mobile application he is developing for the Help Desk. The creation of the Help Desk app, Mana’s Individual Learning Endeavor (20% time project), is a follow-up to Banana Boom; a game he and Michael Seleman (a first semester Help Desk student) coded that is now available for download in the App Store. Mana’s goal is to launch the Help Desk app on April 1st.
After Renee finished providing Manas with her feedback, I sat down with her and showed her two new tools that I knew she would be interested in trying. The first was Voxer. Honestly, I wasn’t sold on Voxer when I first heard about it, similar to how I initially felt about Twitter. However, I’ve recently discovered how it can be used to connect and collaborate with members of my PLN. The #digcit team has connected via Voxer to plan our chats and I just finished collaborating with Joe Mazza, Marialice Curran, and Mike Ribble via Voxer on a recent episode of #BACKCHANNELedu, the new scenario-based, school leadership podcast My experience with Voxer got me thinking about how it could be used by teachers, specifically foreign language, who wish to capture and assess student voice. During my quick meeting with Renee, I demonstrated how Voxer audio files can be shared via Classroom which makes for an incredibly efficient workflow. Next I showed her Telestory. Within a matter of minutes, I walked her through all the features and made a sample story. When I told her projects could be saved to the camera we both literally cheered. Renee was planning to have her students start making music videos later that same day, so my introduction to Telestory was perfect timing and it would be added to her list of choices to offer students. I’m eager to see how Renee integrates Voxer and Telestory into her classroom and what her students will create.
The next two periods I witnessed two of my Help Desk students gain their first real-world learning experience. Nick, a sophomore, helped a teacher get her iPad back onto the network and continued researching how to create a high quality screencast. Nick is adjusting well to life as a student genius and is making a Classroom to Notability on the iPad tutorial using Explain Everything. Another sophomore, Arya, joined Help Desk as part of a field study and proved her problem-solving skills by quickly resolving an issue a student was having with an app. Arya is not only savvy with technology, she is an exceptional artist. She is creating a mural for our new Maker Studio and designing the TEDxYouth@BHS program and tickets. The next two periods, my Digital Literacy students continued collaborating through Google Slides on the development of a visual “Tech Savvy Search Tips for Teens” display that will be posted in the library. They began this project by taking the self-paced, power searching How Search Works course sponsored by Google. Next week they will share with a global audience via their blogs what they have learned about searching and why information literacy skills are important.
I ended my day at Francis Wyman Elementary School and assisted Lynne O’Neill’s 3rd grade class with a Google Hangout On Air that was facilitated by 4th grade teacher Billy Corcoran. Ten schools from across the country gathered to discuss and share what digital learning means to them and how a culture of connected learning can benefit them as learners. I visited Lynne’s class last Thursday to prepare them for the Hangout and was so impressed by our discussion. When I asked them, “what are the advantages of using technology to learn?” They said the following (and I’m not paraphrasing):
-“it makes us think harder”
-“we don’t always succeed with it, but we keep trying until we get it right”
-“we help and teach each other”
-“we are better at math and reading”
-“we get to learn computer programming”
Hearing these responses proved Lynne’s ability to integrate technology into her classroom in a purposeful way. During the live Hangout, several of Lynne’s students went right up to the camera and explained what they had made with their iPads and how the use of the iPad impacts their learning. One student looked at me in in the middle of the call and whispered, “this is so cool.” When the Hangout was over, I asked the students if they wanted to create a show similar to Billy’s students and they all immediately shouted “yes!” I’m excited by the possibility of this project and will definitely share out updates if the students decided to move forward with the idea. The archive of their Hangout can be found by clicking here.
My Not So Typical “Typical Friday”
I realize this typical Friday is not so typical for many schools, which is exactly why I support the Digital Learning Day mission. All students, regardless of where they live, should have the opportunities to experience digital learning every day the way Burlington students do.
Find Out What Makes Burlington Future Ready
I am fortunate to work in a district that is clearly Future Ready. Every student and teacher has a school issued mobile device. At our high school, first level tech support is offered by our student run genius bar. We have dedicated faculty who don’t use technology for technology’s sake, they use it to create student-centered, project-based learning environments and to differentiate instruction to meet the needs of all learners. We have an incredibly strong infrastructure maintained by an equally incredible IT department who understands the needs of students and teachers. We share our learning with a global audience. We have supportive, trusting, and progressive administrators who’ve established a positive culture. We connect with parents online and in person. Admittedly, we have resources, both human and capital, and a progressive leadership team with a growth mindset, that many districts do not. We’ve made a commitment to do what’s best for students and providing digital learning opportunities is a part of that. I’m proud to be a part of a team that leads, models, and supports digital learning day everyday and if you’d like to learn more about what’s led not only to Burlington’s success, but the success of other area 1:1 districts, please register to attend our 1:1 Summit on April 10th!