Bart Goering: Digital Learning Day Promotes Innovation and Student Learning
Bart Goering is Superintendent of Spring Hill Unified School District in Spring Hill,
Digital Learning is an excellent opportunity for school districts like mine to not only feature the proven education technology practices our district is already undertaking, but to also feature the ever-expanding list of digital learning opportunities our district is providing to meet the ever-changing demands of our 21st century learners.
A priority in our school district is to provide students with a global perspective and experience. We can achieve this through the strategic use of educational technology in classrooms, while also giving them the skills needed for future learning successes. In addition, continuing to integrate technology into our classroom instruction will lead to more project-based learning and increased student engagement, which ultimately translates to higher student achievement.
On Digital Learning Day, district students and staff will be participating in a wide range of activities that showcases current use of educational technology and also challenges them to try new tools that are available. In elementary classrooms, students will be blogging as part of their writing and also collaborating on projects in real time with students in other classrooms through use of Google applications. At the high school level, teachers are being challenged to learn about and utilize one new educational tool in their classroom. This professional development effort is being supported by the district’s curriculum department and its building-level instructional coaches.
As our district prepared for Digital Learning Day, I was thinking about education technology in a broader sense. So much of digital learning/literacy goes back to resources. The constantly changing field of technology and suddenly ‘outdated’ status of technology that was cutting-edge only yesterday presents a unique obstacle to schools. Compounding things further is the critical role of professional development for the teachers and principals leading the charge in our classrooms. All the technology in the world is useless if it cannot be leveraged by classroom and school leaders to support digital and student learning in a meaningful way.
With both the House and Senate having moved pieces of legislation to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, it caught my eye that neither bill, as originally introduced, included reauthorization of the Enhancing Education Through Technology Act (Title II Part D), which plays a crucial role in helping schools use education technology to improve student achievement, expand digital literacy and support integration of technology in teacher training/professional development. Absent a dedicated program of funding line, it is difficult to leverage program effectiveness and make the case for funding.
Digital Learning Day is a great one-time catalyst to reinvigorate what should be an ongoing conversation in this country. It is my hope, and I know it is a sentiment echoed by AASA’s legislative priorities, that an education technology program—whether Title II Part D or a similar program—be included as a critical link in ESEA reauthorization efforts. I was pleased to see that the Senate HELP Committee, before voting the bill out of committee, voted to support an amendment that does just that. The ATTAIN Act, sponsored by Senator Bingaman, reauthorizes and renames the program, along with making some programmatic improvements. I commend the Senate for their leadership on this issue, and hope the House will take a similar plan of action. Further, I hope the administration will see the disconnect between their call for preparing all students to be ‘college and career’ ready while zero-funding the education technology program for the past couple of years.
Annually, our school district receives just over $2,000 of federal education technology funding that is utilized for professional development of technology staff members, which is important to the overall success of our educational programs. In addition to federal education funds, our local community has acknowledged the importance of purposefully integrating educational technology into classrooms. In June of 2011, patrons passed a bond issue that included funds to address much-needed technology improvements and, more importantly, monies to enhance digital learning in the future. Currently, the district is moving forward with a wireless connectivity project that will support a wide range of devices and learning opportunities. In addition, upgrading users to tablet-type devices, which are literally educational backpacks-to-go, is a district priority and the use of those tools will be carefully woven in to a curriculum in order to truly provide a world-class education.
Check out some pictures from my district of how our students are using technology, as well as the Digital Learning Day flyer being circulated in the high school. We’re excited for February 1!
Learn more about Digital Learning Day at http://www.digitallearningday.org.
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