“One of the hardest things we see happening today is when students have those big gaps over their educational career, they get into high school and they don’t have any time to go back and fill them in,” said Patrick. “There’s no reason we can’t build those building blocks so every student can be successful and graduate with the skills they need for college. This is very hard to do without good technology, but the technology is here now, so this is the time.”
“In a digital learning environment, students can actually learn at their own pace, and the curriculum can adapt on a lesson-by-lesson basis,” said Gillis. Patrick and Gillis explained that with a digital learning program, students can be assessed as they finished each lesson and wouldn’t progress to subsequent teachings until they had mastered the current one.
“There’s a new accountability that comes along with that. Instead of checking the dipstick in your car at the end of the year, the assessment-based learning for each individual student lets them know how they’re progressing. We’re focusing back on the instruction of the teacher in the classroom,” said Patrick.
“It’s not just a one snapshot in time, on one day, on one standardized test,” added Gillis.
Gillis said she believes access to technology must be worked into schools’ infrastructure.
“If we take a strategic approach in our schools and in our communities to identify gaps and who needs access, there are strategies for providing computers for students at home, [and] being able to fill those gaps so every student has access to some sort of computing device,” said Gillis. “Students come to school every day with computers in their pockets, so why don’t we access that as well?” she asked, referring to the widespread use of smart phones and other personal computing devices.
The DLC’s “10 Elements of High Quality Digital Learning” are as follows:
- Student Eligibility: All students are digital learners.
- Student Access: All students have access to high-quality digital content and online courses.
- Personalized Learning: All students can customize their education using digital content through an approved provider.
- Advancement: Students progress based on demonstrated competency, instead of rigid seat-time requirements.
- Content: Digital content, instructional materials, and online and blended learning courses are high quality.
- Instruction: Digital instruction and teachers are high quality.
- Providers: All students have access to multiple, high-quality providers.
- Assessment and Accountability: Student learning is the metric for evaluating quality of content and instruction.
- Funding: Funding creates incentives for performance, options, and innovation.
- Delivery: Infrastructure supports digital learning.
Gillis said the DLC’s recommendations are an important step in advancing digital learning to all students.
“We want to remove the barriers of constraint of time. We want to remove the problems of funding and access and this document will do that,” she said.