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Shining a spotlight on instructional technology use in K-12 classrooms across the country is the second annual Digital Learning Day, taking place on Wednesday, Feb. 6.
Held by the Alliance for Excellent Education, the event will kick off its digital learning campaign -- and U.S. Chief Technology Officer Todd Park, U.S. Representative George Miller from California and nearly 25,000 teachers will participate in the day's activities.
During a Digital Town Hall from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. EST, educators can watch a live simulcast that includes Park and Miller, as well as video examples from teacher demonstrations of digital learning. Four school districts will also talk about their digital learning strategies: Dysart Unified School District in Arizona, Quakertown Community School District in Pennsylvania, Cajon Valley Union School District in California and Miami-Dade County Public Schools in Florida.
At the state level, different states host Digital Learning Day activities. Michigan, local education technology company TechSmith and the Flipped Learning Netework are hosting an open house at Clintondale High School designed to show educators how to flip their schools. The urban high school outside of Detroit had major student discipline problems and high freshmen failure rates until it changed its instruction model.
A flipped model allows students to work together on activities that they would normally tackle outside class. This way, their instructor can see where they struggle and help them when they get stuck. At home, they sometimes watch short videos that their instructors create with the software program Camtasia Relay.
State Superintendent Mike Flanagan also recorded a podcast about digital learning. And the department will release a segment of a digital learning documentary film called Look I'm Learning, which features two Michigan teachers and the state superintendent.
Michigan participates in Digital Learning Day because it's been promoting digital learning for over a decade, said Bruce Umpstead, state director of educational technology and data coordination at the Michigan Department of Education. It started with the launch of Michigan Virtual University and Michigan Virtual High School. and that led to a new high school graduation requirement in 2006 -- that high schoolers take an online class.
"We've just been trying to get our schools to adopt digital learning strategies and practices, software and other content as it's become both available and affordable," Umpstead said. "We're kind of in a race against time to help schools get ready for these online assessments that are coming."
By 2014-2015, all state tests will be available electronically for states that decided to adopt the Common Core State Standards. They'll eventually replace the paper tests.
"It's really going to become an imperative for every school, every teacher, every student to become comfortable in digital learning environments because their state assessments are going to be available only in online version by 2018," Umpstead said.
But they shouldn't go digital just for the assessments. They should also take advantage of the digital resources and technology-enabled instruction that's available now, Umpstead said.
As digital learning increases, smiles have also increased on both teachers' and students' faces, said Doug O'Brien, director of digital learning for TechSmith. Many great teachers aren't comfortable with technology, but they know how to present, create and adapt content to their students' needs.
"What digital learning lets them do is to quickly and easily capture content and provide it to the students, and personalize it so they're not just passively following the chapters in a provided curriculum," O'Brien said. "It allows a teacher to put a lot of their ideas and personality into what they do, and it's important that teachers have passion because that's what kids remember."
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