In the report, the council identifies several goals for the nation to meet by 2020 to integrate digital media into early learning programs and help the nation’s underserved students become current with 21st-century skills.
Those goals include:
- Advance technology integration and infrastructure: The Digital Age Teacher Preparation Council recommends that President Obama and Congress expand broadband policies and technology integration efforts to cover publicly supported preschool programs.
- Modernize professional learning programs and models: The report urges states, local districts, Head Start programs, and other early learning programs to develop curricula and training resources for teachers and parents on the appropriate use of technologies with young children. It also recommends specific reforms to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to integrate the use of technology in both preparation and ongoing training programs for early childhood educators.
- Expand public media use as a cost-effective asset for teachers: Given the low cost, research-based development, but currently limited use of public media assets in early childhood education settings, the council recommends the creation of more public-private partnerships to create and distribute public media assets more widely.
- Create a Digital Teacher Corps: The council recommends a new public-private partnership be designed to support a corps of teachers whose goal is to integrate digital learning, modern technologies, and best teaching practices to address the “fourth grade reading slump” that afflicts over one million young children annually.
The challenges facing education today mean that teachers must come up with new and creative approaches to engage their students, especially younger students, Darling-Hammond said.
“Quality early learning programs in our digital age will be led by highly prepared, flexible teachers who can effectively integrate what they know about healthy child development with the resources of an always-connected, thoroughly modern environment,” she said, noting that the report demonstrates how educators can design new pathways for their youngest students.
The report also highlights current best practices in integrating technology into early learning programs, including online professional development courses, statewide technology innovations such as the Maine One-to-One Laptop program, and technology integration through applications such as Building Blocks software and university-based programs introduced by Tufts University.
If teachers of children ages 3-8 can integrate emerging digital technology into their own professional development, the nation can move toward “a cost-effective and productive pathway for learning in the 21st century,” the authors wrote.
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