#DLDay 2017: Getting Digital in the Classroom
What Does it Really Mean When a District Goes Digital?
In 2016, we saw thousands of district leaders pledging to make digital transformation a top priority in their schools, and in 2017, we expect to see thousands more. (If you aren’t yet one of those educators, you can take the pledge here!) This upswell of enthusiasm for digital learning is so inspiring: clearly, educators recognize the indispensability of technology in the classroom and its potential as a key component of student success. But as exciting as it is, the digital conversion process can be hugely overwhelming: in part because digital ecosystems are complicated, and it takes careful coordination and collaboration to take on such a comprehensive overhaul of resources. But it’s also overwhelming for many administrative teams because there’s a lot of haziness and misconception around just what it means to “get digital” in the classroom — is it just a matter of handing every student a laptop, and continuing on with business as usual? Absolutely not! Digital conversion involves rethinking teaching and learning, both in the way that we teach and the environment in which we interact with students.
If you’re going to effectively implement technology in your classroom, then you have to reconsider the classroom model itself. And if you’re introducing innovative digital learning programs into the classroom, then that means it’s also time to bring your learning environment into the current moment, and reconsider the way you’re making use of educational space and time. Here are three basic, spacial components to reevaluate if you are planning to go digital:
The Classroom Space: Reimagined
Start by thinking about your classroom layout. You don’t have to replace all of your desks with beanbag chairs, or invest in expensive new classroom furniture — it’s just a matter of working with what you have to do what works for your students. Focus on reformatting your classroom for the sake of collaboration, productivity, and unrestricted learning. Consider experimenting with flexible classroom seating to increase student collaboration on group projects. Check out our Pinterest Board for inspiration — like these carpet squares or this open-concept middle school classroom. Spaces where kids can share ideas and get creative will allow them to implement technology in ways they could never do alone at a desk. Flexible seating can also improve productivity and energy — check out teacher Blaine Dunsmore’s experience with exercise balls to promote movement in the classroom. (And take a look at her classroom in the images below!) It’s also important to consider how you can make digital devices available to students, and present them as an intuitive, flexible, accessible part of everyday learning. We love this digital classroom layout plan from the Adventures in Teaching blog: it incorporates spaces for individual and group learning, while taking into account the centrality of both technology and the educator in an effective teaching model.
The Learning Environment: Extended
Traditionally, we tend think of a learning environment as a classroom, armed with workbooks and textbooks, and supported by a teacher. While there’s nothing wrong with maintaining elements of this model, it’s important to consider how it can be expanded — how districts can make more resources available to students, offer more support, and more flexibility. Future Ready Schools presents us with a brilliant place to start: Librarians. Librarians have the potential to function as a key resource for student learning in your district. They can enhance pedagogy as instructional partners, teach students how to effectively and purposefully use digital learning tools, and provide another space for flexible learning outside of the traditional classroom.
Also consider how the learning environment travels with students outside of the school entirely — what resources and communicative platforms are available to students (and their families) at home? Digital platforms that provide students with a plethora of study and research resources can be instrumental in making homework time more effective. Future Ready Schools also provides districts with a framework for leveraging digital tools and resources to implement flexible learning from school, home, or in their communities: it’s one component of their larger initiative to change the way districts think about their use of space and time in light of personalized learning. Essentially, it’s about setting new limits (or taking down limits altogether) for student access to learning: who can help students discover, what digital tools can empower their learning, and where can that learning experience happen?
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The Teaching Community: Supported
Finally, consider how digital implementation will influence your internal teaching community: how will your district provide effective professional development that takes the role of technology into account, and how will your teachers use the data made newly available to them by educational technology? Perhaps one of the most transformative and significant elements of educational technology is the student data that many programs provide. Digestible data dashboards work on both a class-wide and individual level to inform instruction. They provide teachers with real-time feedback on a specific student’s progress and knowledge gaps, and allow teachers to track the class’s mastery of a subject as a whole, and adjust instruction accordingly. This access to tangible, digestible data takes teachers one step closer to make personalized learning scalable, and to make the most of every precious moment in the classroom. Selecting educational technology that employs this feature, and giving your educators the training to use it effectively, is a crucial element of going digital. It isn’t just about a shift from paper to screen, or pen to keyboard: it’s about changing the way we strive for outcomes, and they way we envision a lifetime of learning for our students.
To kickstart your district’s efforts to undergo a digital conversion, start by visiting Future Ready Schools. Future Ready Schools offers events, resources, and a comprehensive planning framework for digital conversion. Learn more and take the pledge to make your district Future Ready.
To learn how you can participate in and support the Digital Learning Day movement, click below: