Tag: digital learning

First Ever Digital Learning Day a Success in Washington State

Last Thursday was the first ever national Digital Learning Day. More than 10,000 teachers and 2 million students participated in raising awareness of the importance of digital learning. Among them was a dedicated band of online students from across Washington state.

The iLearn Project and the Washington Families for Online Learning Coalition partnered to host a demonstration of online students and teachers conducting their regular school day from two conference rooms at the state capitol. Legislators and staffers dropped in and learned from the true experts as students, teachers, and parents engaged with visitors to illustrate the academic rigor, accountability, and overall importance of online learning options.

Digital Learning Day was spear-headed by Governor Bob Wise and the Alliance for Excellent Education. In a Jan. 26 press release, Wise said,

“The urgency of providing a quality education means every child has access to the engaging experience that comes with powerful teaching and rigorous content available through digital learning. The teachers are here, the technology is everywhere, and the students are ready and able. Now it’s time to put it all together.”

Visit www.digitallearningday.org for countless resources and to learn how more than 35 other states recognized Digital Learning Day.

On February 21 Washington’s digital learning community will once again come together for the sixth annual Online Learning Day at the Capitol where last year more than 400 families attended. This year, due to the 15 percent budget cut to Basic Education Funding passed in the last legislative session, even more families are expected to attend and advocate for equal basic education funding for all public school students.

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[Reprinted from the iLearn Project blog]

School Choice Week (And How Online Learning is Good for Students and Teachers)

In “Short Circuited: The Challenge Facing the Online Learning Revolution in California” our friends at the Pacific Research Institute tell the story of online learning in California.

Highlighting Rocketship Education, School of One, and California Virtual Academy, the film shows the benefits of online and blended learning for students from a variety of backgrounds.

It goes on to address push-back from teacher unions and how the potential of online learning is only limited by the regulations we place on it.

The film points out that sometimes the interests of teachers and students do not coincide, and in those cases student interests should come first. This is absolutely true.

But the digital learning revolution is not one of those cases.

Embracing online learning is good for students. It opens up countless options for families, providing access to courses otherwise unavailable to every student. As Getting Smart author Tom Vander Ark has said, with online learning there is no reason why every student shouldn’t have access to every Advanced Placement course. It also allows students to learn at their own pace while getting support from qualified teachers. Online learning equalizes opportunity and has the potential to reach society’s most vulnerable. And these are just a few benefits.

But these advantages don’t occur at the expense of teachers. Indeed, online learning benefits teachers, too.

As Governor Bob Wise explained at the Washington Online Learning Symposium, digital learning takes teaching to a level of professionalism teachers have been asking for. Instead of the “sage on the stage” or “guide on the side,” with online learning teachers become “educational designers.”

For decades, teachers have faced the daunting task of educating a room of students that typically have only one thing in common: their age. The average classroom is made up of students with a variety of learning styles, learning levels, interests, temperaments, and more. Today every student is expected to graduate college and career ready, making a teacher’s job more demanding than ever.

The only way for teachers to meet that demand is to update the way we do school. Enter the educational designer. Using online tools (that are increasingly affordable), today’s teacher can build a unique program catered to the needs of each student. Instead of diminishing the importance of teachers, online learning enhances it by giving them the tools to meet individual student needs in ways that were previously impossible.

This is National School Choice Week, and digital learning is one of the most promising choices on the menu. Pacific Research Council rightly notes that teacher unions have pushed back against online learning. But there is no reason why teachers, students, and families can’t join together to advocate for more digital learning options. Those who oppose them are opposing what’s good for students and what’s good for teachers.

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[Reprinted from the Freedom Foundation’s Liberty Live! blog; photo credit: familymwr]

Diminishing Ignorance Will Pave Way for Digital Learning Innovation | Guest Op-Ed

(“Diminishing Ignorance Will Pave Way for Digital Learning Innovation” by Diana Moore was originally published on Getting Smart.)

Washington state: the birthplace of Microsoft, Boeing, Starbucks, Dave Matthews, Rainn Wilson, and more. Lesser known is the fact that the Evergreen State is also home to more than 40 different digital learning programs. In fact, for more than 15 years online public school programs have been active and growing, providing increased access to excellence and options for Washington’s kids.

As an education analyst, it’s been my privilege to travel the state looking for stories of lives that have been changed by digital learning. They’re not hard to find. From dropout recovery to academically advanced, from chronically ill to cognitively impaired, the stories pour in.

Why? What makes the difference? Because after decades of cramming kids into a uniform mold and expecting them to adjust—and come out educated—leaders and visionaries have harnessed the power of technology to design a rigorous academic program around the needs of individual students.

Furthermore, with digital learning, geography, income, health, employment, disability, family, and learning level—these variables no longer dictate a student’s ability to access an excellent public education.

With more than a decade of experience, Washington is ahead of the curve. Our online programs are held to high standards of accountability, students can access any approved online provider—regardless of location, and some of the unnecessary regulations that were inherited from traditional schools have begun to fade away.

But there is still a very real threat to digital learning and the opportunities it can open up for kids. The threat? Ignorance.

A doctor with incomplete information can hurt a patient. A pilot with a faulty map can get pretty darned lost. A mechanic with the wrong manual can ruin a perfectly good machine—while trying to repair it. Similarly, a legislator who lacks a clear understanding of digital learning can deprive thousands of kids of life-changing learning opportunities.

In spite of all the good things happening with digital learning in Washington, many legislators have yet to fully grasp the remarkable potential it holds. And we’ve seen the consequences.

For the past two legislative sessions, online learning has been on the chopping block. In 2010, legislators proposed eliminating funding for K-6 online learning programs. Fortunately, families responded en masse and legislators listened, finding the necessary savings elsewhere.

In 2011, we weren’t so lucky.

Again faced with a budget deficit, legislators proposed a 10-20 percent cut to alternative learning experience programs, which includes online learning. In spite of countless appeals from families, they went through with this cut.

There’s no denying cuts were necessary. But if legislators really understood digital learning, they would have realized their decision would hurt kids—and not save money.

Ignorance is a formidable foe. And this year, we’re taking it on. Ryan Fox, an autistic student from rural Washington –with a passion for music—found the right fit in online learning. Ryan told us, “When our elected officials need to vote on new things, it’s important to educate them so they don’t make uninformed decisions. My mom says, good people usually only make bad decisions when they don’t have information, so we should just make sure that they have it.”

For legislators to enact good policies, they need all the facts. That’s why this year the iLearn Project is partnering with groups like Digital Learning Now and Getting Smart to give Washington’s policymakers a vision for the importance and potential of online learning and the tools to make it a priority.

On the evening of January 11, 2012, we are hosting the Washington Online Learning Symposium for state policymakers. Delivering the keynote speech is national expert and former West Virginia Governor Bob Wise, who currently serves as President of the Alliance for Excellent Education and co-chairman of Digital Learning Now!

The saying “knowledge is power” has suffered from overuse, but it’s still true. Next week at the Washington Online Learning Symposium, we will empower policymakers with the knowledge they need to make Ryan’s experience true for every student:

“I love online learning!  It has changed my life.  I really believe that in the future everyone will learn this way!  We will all be able to learn from the very smartest people on Earth, and we will do it at our own pace every day.  Our abilities will matter more than our disabilities.”

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[photo credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center]

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