Digital learning has not always been as ubiquitous as it is today–in fact, a decade ago, the concept made many educators uncomfortable. But today, digital learning resources are embraced as tools that highly-skilled educators can use to boost student engagement and connect classroom lessons to the real world.
Digital Learning Day celebrates this evolution and highlights how educators across the country are using digital learning tools to create authentic connections and personalized learning opportunities for every student, everywhere. Check out All4Ed’s Digital Learning Day resources to find digital learning tools, hear from fellow educators about their digital learning strategies, and more.
Here, five educators share the digital learning tools and resources that have proven successful in their classrooms and in their schools.
1. Specialized digital content can support students as they learn specific and individual skills. While digital science content is abundantly available, digital science content that supports and focuses on lab skills is more difficult to come by. Cristi Watkins Sims, department chair and AP Biology teacher in Arizona, shares her three favorite digital resources that can help support ALL science teachers teaching science lab skills.
2. Mixed reality glasses can help struggling readers. Hear from two East Carolina University educators and researchers about how they created a science reading experience for 5th grade students using the Microsoft HoloLens, a mixed reality technology that merges the real and virtual worlds to produce something entirely new. Young readers wore the mixed reality glasses and then looked at a page of scientific text in the real world. The HoloLens was programmed to deliver supplementary content in the virtual world that could only be seen and heard within the glasses. Because abstract concepts can be intimidating for young learners, the focus remained on supplying additional information for difficult scientific concepts. When the students’ eyes paused on a particularly difficult word or phrase, the glasses would deliver audio-visual information to supplement the reading.
3. Social studies is critical to students’ lives beyond the classroom–educators should use every possible tool to engage students in this critical discipline. Stacey Higgins, a fourth grade team leader at Forest Lake Elementary School, engages students with a host of exciting digital resources that help students connect their lessons to the real world. Those digital social studies tools help Higgins enhance her delivery of instruction and expand students’ knowledge of the country’s history.
4. Minecraft Education is a perfect example of taking a digital resource students already love and using it for learning. “When kids use Minecraft in the classroom, they’re so engrossed in what they’re doing that they forget they’re actually learning,” said technology specialist Kristen Brooks of the Cherokee County School District. “Students excel in their learning when they’re encouraged to create projects in a style or format they prefer.”
5. Virtual reality and 3D can be instrumental in helping students develop durable skills. Once a novel technology, the current mindset seemed to be that VR was just another toy used to consume games and other media. Megan Bateman, a technology/media literacy specialist, art specialist, and data/intervention specialist in Minnesota was not looking to use VR to gamify her classroom. She wanted her students to be able to use virtual reality as a medium for developing the higher-order thinking skills that are critical for thriving in today’s digitally connected society. To push students past the consumption mindset, she developed an immersive design adventure that awakened and inspired the 4Cs of learning: creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, and communication.