Digital Learning Now!

On Wednesday, Governors Jeb Bush and Bob Wise released a road map for the future of American education.  In a letter to governors, they described their shared vision:

  • Our vision is an education that maximizes every child’s potential for learning, prepares every child with the knowledge and skills to succeed in college and careers, and launches every child into the world with the ability to pursue his or her dreams.  By unleashing the power of digital learning, America has the ability to realize that vision today.
  • Digital learning can customize and personalize education so all students learn in their own style at their own pace, which maximizes their chances for success in school and beyond.  With digital learning, every student – from rural communities to inner cities – can access high quality and rigorous courses in every subject, including foreign languages, math and science.

This summer, the governors convened the Digital Learning Council with leaders in education, government, philanthropy, business, technology and think tanks to define the actions that lawmakers and policymakers must take to spark a revolution in digital learning.  More than 100 people from across the nation invested countless hours and energy in this rapid virtual policy development process.
As Governor Wise frequently points out, America faces an achievement gap, a teacher gap, and a financial gap. These gaps can only be closed by expanding access to learning online and by encouraging schools to incorporate the best of online and on-site learning.
The Digital Learning Now report outlines the 10 Elements of High Quality Digital Learning and the associated actions required of state legislators and policy makers:
1. Student Eligibility:  All students are digital learners.

  • State ensures access to high quality digital content and online courses to all students.
  • State ensures access to high quality digital content and online courses to students in K-12 at any time in their academic career.

2. Student Access:  All students have access to high quality digital content and online courses.

  • State does not restrict access to high quality digital content and online courses with policies such as class size ratios and caps on enrollment or budget.
  • State does not restrict access to high quality digital content and online courses based on geography, such as school district, county, or state.
  • State requires students take high quality online college-or career-prep courses to earn a high school diploma.

3. Personalized Learning:  All students can customize their education using digital content through an approved provider.

  • State allows students to take online classes full-time, part-time or by individual course.
  • State allows students to enroll with multiple providers and blend online courses with onsite learning.
  • State allows rolling enrollment year round.
  • State does not limit the number credits earned online.
  • State does not limit provider options for delivering instruction.

4. Advancement:  Students progress based on demonstrated competency.

  • State requires matriculation based on demonstrated competency.
  • State does not have a seat-time requirement for matriculation.
  • State provides assessments when students are ready to complete the course or unit.

5. Content:  Digital content, instructional materials, and online and blended learning courses are high quality.

  • State requires digital content and online and blended learning courses to be aligned with state standards or common core standards where applicable.

6. Instruction: Digital instruction and teachers are high quality.

  • State provides alternative certification routes, including online instruction and performance-based certification.
  • State provides certification reciprocity for online instructors certified by another state.
  • State creates the opportunity for multi-location instruction.
  • State encourages post-secondary institutions with teacher preparation programs to offer targeted digital instruction training.
  • State ensures that teachers have professional development or training to better utilize technology and before teaching an online or blended learning course.

7. Providers:  All students have access to multiple high quality providers.

  • State has an open, transparent, expeditious approval process for digital learning providers.
  • State provides students with access to multiple approved providers including public, private and nonprofit.
  • States treat all approved education providers- public, chartered and private – equally.
  • State provides all students with access to all approved providers.
  • State has no administrative requirements that would unnecessarily limit participation of high quality providers (e.g. office location).
  • State provides easy-to-understand information about digital learning, including programs, content, courses, tutors, and other digital resources, to students.

8. Assessment and Accountability:  Student learning is the metric for evaluating the quality of content and instruction.

  • State administers assessments digitally.
  • State ensures a digital formative assessment system.
  • State evaluates the quality of content and courses predominately based on student learning data.
  • State evaluates the effectiveness of teachers based, in part, on student learning data.
  • State holds schools and providers accountable for achievement and growth.

9. Funding:   Funding creates incentives for performance, options and innovation.

  • State funding model pays providers in installments that incentivize completion and achievement.
  • State allows for digital content to be acquired through instructional material budgets and does not discourage digital content with print adoption practices.
  • State funding allows customization of education including choice of providers.

10. Delivery:  Infrastructure supports digital learning.

  • State is replacing textbooks with digital content, including interactive and adaptive multimedia.
  • State ensures high-speed broadband Internet access for public school teachers and students.
  • State ensures all public school students and teachers have Internet access devices.
  • State uses purchasing power to negotiate lower cost licenses and contracts for digital content and online courses.
  • State ensures local and state data systems and related applications are updated and robust to inform longitudinal management decisions, accountability and instruction.

Over the coming year, Digital Learning Now, a project of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, and partner organizations will provide support to state policy makers to guide the historic pivot from print to personal digital learning.
American K-12 education is facing it’s “GM moment” when it must do more with less.  Digital Learning Now offers a road map to meet the academic and financial challenges of the future.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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1 Comment

Al Meyers

This vision requires another level of analysis. For all of this to work, the government MUST set in motion the conditions that will enable a sustainable innovation ecosystem. The vision about digital learning has merit, but how do you implement systemic change? We need the following elements to all work in tandem:
1. Strategic focus
2. Idea Generation
3. Translational Pathways
4. Financial, infrastructural & human capital
The council has done well with items 1 and 2, but how does our system tackle the critical numbers 3 and 4?
We need to spend more time on the "how" and not the "what."
Al Meyers
ReinventED Solutions

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