Robust Digital Environments for Every Student

Move over, Sochi. The biggest event this week is Digital Learning Day—24 hours devoted to incorporating new, meaningful technology into classrooms and libraries.

There’s a huge, exciting event kicking off this week, and no, it’s not the Olympics. Digital Learning Day is February 5, designed to inspire educators to integrate digital learning into their classrooms and libraries throughout the school year.

Over 1,300 events, ranging from Skype sessions with French pen pals to QR code scavenger hunts, are planned throughout the day from Alaska to Maine. Plus, to help teachers kick-start tech-filled activities, the Alliance for Excellent Education (which sponsors DLD) is providing a bevy of amazing lesson plans, toolkits, and instructional strategies. The resources go way beyond PowerPoints by delving into concepts such as how social media can inspire social change or how computer programs written with Scratch can beat humans at strategy games.

Digital Learning Day has roots in our region—inspiration for the campaign started with the idea of a paperless day at Mountainview Elementary in Morgantown, West Virginia.

“The idea behind No Paper No Pencil Day was to encourage teachers. I wanted them to build confidence in the use of technology,” says Karen Collins, principal of Mountainview Elementary, in an Alliance for Excellent Education video about the origins of Digital Learning Day. While the day has grown to a national scale, its goals remain similar. The day aims to promote meaningful technology use in schools and support teachers with high-quality resources.

Of course, only one day of digital learning isn’t enough to prepare kids for a world that’s basically dependent on technology. As Digital Learning Day organizers note on their website, the event “is about giving every child the opportunity to learn in a robust digital environment every day, with the goal of success in college and a career.”

Pittsburgh’s learning ecosystem is making this happen. Students in our region are tinkering, building robots, and filling their summers with hands-on learning. Technology is being woven into all children’s education, no matter where they live. I wrote last month about the challenges and opportunities that technology presents for rural schools. Not surprisingly, rural districts in our region are at the cutting edge.

Here’s a peek at a few of the cool things happening in and out of Pittsburgh in conjunction with Digital Learning Day:

  • After School Alliance, Edutopia, and the National Writing Project are teaming up to promote the #Make4DLDay challenge—a set of digital storytelling activities that let kids become and makers on Digital Learning Day. Teachers choose from three different “levels” of technology-created stories: a narrative-driven photo slideshow, a Prezi, or a stop-motion video. Then, students are encouraged to share their work on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, or Instagram using the #Make4DLDay hashtag.

The challenge’s multimedia activities are designed to introduce kids to digital storytelling and encourage a shift from consuming media to actively making “digital artifacts.” By learning the first critical baby steps in digital storytelling, kids become equipped to tell any story they want later down the line—something we recently wrote about.

  • PAIMS Pennsylvania’s statewide “Find Your Inner da Vinci” event encourages student teams to invent something that will make the world a better place by solving a real-life problem. (The concept sounds a lot like the design thinking process catching on in education.) The students will share their inventions with other students around the state through videoconferencing. Track their progress with the #PADLDay hashtag.
  • The Center for Creativity is hosting a digital learning symposium in its super-interactive transformED space. Through digital and video events, educators and students will learn about the different innovative ways technology is being used in Allegheny County’s 42 school districts.

The center is also hosting its own Live Digital Learning Streaming Event as part of the  statewide da Vinci program and is encouraging districts to put together small teams to find solutions to real-world problems. The center emphasizes that teachers don’t have to dive into anything new. Rather, they can work off what they’re already teaching to incorporate technology in a new way.

  • The Library of Congress in Washington D.C. is hosting myriad of live events and will serve as a “hub” for Digital Learning Day activities. Schools can hop online and join in on any part of the full day of speeches from policy makers and learning experts, live chats, live demonstrations, and interactive polls.
  • New Hope-Solebury High School near Philadelphia is just one of the schools whose journalism students will be joining in on a Google hangout debate with Vijay Ravindran, Chief Digital Officer of the Graham Holdings Company (formerly known as the Washington Post Company) about whether modern news outlets can keep up with social media when it comes to breaking news.

 Photo/ Brad Flickinger

Published February 04, 2014