Digital Learning Day: Free resources, White House speaker


Education Secretary Arne Duncan will be joining Digital Learning Day on Feb. 6 for a morning demonstration of five digital learning lesson plans.

The nation’s second Digital Learning Day is fast approaching on Feb. 6, and with digital learning ideas, a keynote speech from the White House Chief Technology Officer, and more participants, this year’s event promises to be even better than last year’s, organizers say.

As of press time, 20,000 educators have signed up for Digital Learning Day activities, and partnerships have doubled since last year: 44 states are participating this year, compared to 28 in 2012, and 50 partner companies and organizations are participating this year, up from 25 last year.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan will be joining Digital Learning Day organizers for a morning demonstration of five digital learning lesson plans. Special guest speaker Todd Park, Chief Technology Officer for the White House, will be at Digital Learning Day’s annual Town Hall meeting as well.

“The success of last year is certainly one of the reasons why the event has grown, since a lot of partners and schools said they found out about the new event too late and they knew to participate this year,” said Sara Hall, director of Digital Learning & Policy for the Alliance for Excellent Education, “but also because we led with instruction and good instructional practice last year, and this is a keystone for DLD.”

Hall said that Digital Learning Day makes sure to focus on teachers and what they need—specifically, not adding technology as yet another layer to instruction, but learning how to integrate technology in order to transform classroom practice. Because of this, many teachers have led grassroots movements this year, letting peers and school leaders know about Digital Learning Day.

(Next page: What’s new about this year’s Digital Learning Day—and a schedule of events)

The Discovery Educator Network (DEN) has a few things planned for Digital Learning Day. For example, the DEN blog will feature short videos and photos of how students are learning with digital tools. Educators can submit their own stories to books09whose@photos.flickr.com. On the day itself, DEN has two webinars planned:

• 1 p.m. ET: Don’t Worry, Get APPy. Discovery Education students from across the country will showcase their favorite educational apps.

• 7 p.m. ET: Digital Learning Day Smack Down with the DEN (Hosted via Google Hangout). Meet DEN Leadership Council members and some of the DEN team as they share their favorite tools for digital learning.

Last year, the Alliance for Excellent Education released a report on Digital Learning Day that said digital learning can expand students’ learning opportunities and help schools overcome tough budget situations and boost achievement. (Read: “As Digital Learning Day approaches, states pledge support.”)

This year, the organization is releasing “Digital Learning: Lessons in Action” to help educators plan for local activities and events. Participants who sign up for Digital Learning Day will be given about a dozen detailed lesson plans that incorporate multiple strategies for digital learning, such as collaboration, personalized learning, project-based learning, flipping the classroom, virtual access to experts, ePortfolios, bring your own device (BYOD), simulations, and real-time assessments.

Tens of thousands of educators will be tailoring these lessons for use in their classrooms on Digital Learning Day and beyond, organizers say.

Examples of some of the lesson plans include:

Hunger Games: Avoiding the Path to Panem (based on the book The Hunger Games): After reading this novel and researching their social, political, environmental, or economic theories of why Panem occurred, students write an informative essay.

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Writing Powerful Blog Comments: Students develop their own blog site and learn the difference between academic and social comments.

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Digital DNA: Students determine what their digital footprint looks like and discover tools that will help them maintain an appropriate digital footprint in the future (video can be found here).

These, and many more lesson plans, can be found as a preview to this year’s Digital Learning Day here.

The day-long event also features a live demonstration of five digital learning lesson plans at the Newseum in Arlington, Va. The lesson subjects are math, science, civics/social studies, language arts, and how to stay safe online.

“Each of these five lesson plans—and those that will be posted online—though they are rooted in digital learning, are not device-focused,” said Hall. “This means that all of these lesson plans could be used on any device … or no device at all. Instructional practice that is effective in using technology to strengthen the student learning experience doesn’t have to revolve around a one-to-one program or device.”

Hall said that Digital Learning Day organizers have partnered with local districts to nominate teachers from their districts to come and watch this live event. There will be 120 nominated teachers from around the Washington, D.C., area.

“We’re also highlighting three schools from around the country—with input from our partners—that have been selected because of their systemic approach to instructional goals and how technology enhances learning,” said Hall.

What are states doing?

Just like last year, Indiana is undertaking a major digital learning initiative, but instead of a 29-day Web 2.0 challenge, the state this year is launching the “Year of the Digital Learner.”

Wisconsin will promote a monthly webinar series for teachers; Colorado will have an event at the state capitol that highlights different innovative and effective classrooms; and California is partnering with the California Writing Project to provide professional development for educators.

Those interested in Digital Learning Day can sign up here.

Meris Stansbury

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