Digital Learning Provides Customization, Motivation & Equalization

With an inelegant prompt, the National Journal called the question on the “treacherous road” to digital learning.   My response is below.
It’s hard to know where to start with this jumbled prompt, but it did bring me out of retirement.  As I have outlined, the emerging benefits of digital learning include:

  • Customized learning allows students to vary rate, time, location, and (increasingly) path–that means more learning per hour.
  • Engaging content and the motivation of instant feedback attack boredom and extend learning.
  • High access environments and take home tech for every student that will narrow the digital divide and extend access to quality teachers and content.

New instructional approaches like visual game-based ST Math have proven gap-closing results in thousands of schools.  New adaptive platforms like Dreambox and i-Ready are racking up impressive gains. New tools power top performing schools that blend online and onsite learning.  And speaking of great success stories, I’m in Moorseville NC for their edtech conference and helping them celebrate and share the success of their digital dollar a day 1:1 program.
Where states allow it, millions of students are blending their own learning by taking online courses.  Having help launch two virtual schools, Robyn Bagley talks passionately about the students that benefit from new high quality learning options.
Rather than reducing interaction, online and blended learning can increase high value interaction between teachers and students.  The NRC just reported on the importance of deeper learning, and blended learning is the only chance to do it well at scale.
The accelerant of online assessment will result in a big increase in student access to technology over the next 30 months.  Some schools will make better use of it than others.  The downside risk is low, the upside is significant.  Digital learning, most often expressed in a blend, is the best shot we have at boosting US achievement and completion rates.  It’s also how quality secondary learning opportunities will be extended to hundreds of millions of young people in developing economies.  The ability to motivate, customize, and equalize makes the shift to personal digital learning is the most profound transition in the history of formal education.
For more, see how Digital Learning is Boosting Achievement and 69 Posts on Blended Learning

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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