Friday, April 20, 2012

Digital Learning: A Map and a Plan for the Future

By Janet Barresi, State Superintendent of Public Instruction (Friday, April 20, 2012)

Most good road trips start with a map and a plan.

This week, stakeholders throughout our state gathered for the State Department of Education’s first Digital Learning Summit. The goal was to begin work on a vision and strategy overview based on the 10 Elements of High Quality Digital Learning to put our students on the road to success in the fast changing landscape of digital learning.

We invited educators, legislative leaders, policymakers and stakeholders from all groups interested in public education. General Sessions were live-streamed for all Oklahomans to provide input and ideas. Breakout sessions focused on each of the 10 elements. General sessions featured dynamic speakers – Richard Culatta from the U.S. Department of Education’s office of Ed Tech, and Tom Vander Ark, founder of and author of “Getting Smart: How Digital Learning is Changing the World.” Each got us fired up about all the possibilities that exist for our students.

As I’ve traveled the state, I’ve seen great examples of digital learning already in progress. First-graders in Howe Public Schools, for instance, were all writing blogs. Elementary students in Clinton showed me digital book reports created in their Creative iPad Class. Students in every district are testing online. For some districts this creates a challenge. In Haworth – the furthest southeast district in the state – they have limited bandwidth. The superintendent told me they sometimes have to shut down all extra Internet use while testing is in progress. School districts in the Panhandle are in an even more challenging circumstance.

I’m hoping the Digital Learning Summit will help us address some of these issues and others – such as making sure we get a handle of vetting the quality of the digital programs so school districts will have confidence in selecting materials for classrooms.

We’ve already made progress, announcing partnerships this year with Oklahoma Educational Television Authority and SAS Curriculum Pathways to offer thousands of free online resources and lesson plans to students, teachers and families throughout Oklahoma. At the Digital Learning Summit I announced our new presence on iTunes U, another free resource offering hundreds of thousands of lessons.

The Digital Learning Summit is just the beginning of the journey. There is much work ahead, but now we have a much better grasp of our map and our plan.

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