On Thursday, the seventh annual celebration of Digital Learning Day will give students and educators an opportunity to express how technology improves their lives. Created by the Alliance for Excellent Education in 2012, Digital Learning Day takes place each year to help us recognize how technology can improve student outcomes. While Digital Learning Day is essentially every day, on February 22nd, students and educators will have the chance to flex their tech muscles by showcasing new elearning methods and sharing digital resources and practices that are beneficial to student learning.
With digital and online learning, educators are employing new teaching strategies by taking advantage of professional development opportunities in technology. Digital and online learning allows educators to target student’s immediate needs while still staying connected to the entire classroom of students. Also, many teachers are employing digital tools to enhance their expertise and champion new teaching strategies. Students—growing savvier every day in their technology use than the generations before them—have embraced digital learning as the norm rather than a luxury. In fact, most students undoubtedly do not remember a moment without it. As digital learning and literacy grows for both students and educators, though, accessibility continues to be a crucial factor.
The Goal to Improve Digital Equity
While many strides to improve regular and reliable access to both devices and the Internet have already been taken, tech accessibility is still a struggle for approximately 6.5 million students across 40 states. It is hard to imagine that students are facing such obstacles in this era, but when challenged against other financial obligations, Internet access is often not viewed as a priority, and some students even lack reliable access to computers or devices outside of school.
Burdened by the “homework gap,” many students are forced to go to the library to squeeze in more hours of homework instead of going home for dinner, perhaps after a long sports practice. Those living in rural areas face the additional issue of limited transportation to even get there. Some determined students may decide to forgo the safety and warmth of their homes to venture out to commercial parking lots that offer free Wi-Fi access in order to complete and submit their assignments. Other students attempt to use their cell phones, which can make completing assignments virtually impossible. In many cases, students are simply unable to finish the work, and may begin falling behind their classmates.
These isolating, trickle-down effects especially impact students and families that are struggling to make ends meet. To help deal with these setbacks, federal, state, and district leaders are working hard to influence policymakers to prioritize digital equity by:
- Improving affordability for school districts that need more bandwidth
- Expanding fiber connections to schools that lack them
- Putting Wi-Fi in every classroom to enable digital learning
But bridging the gap does not stop at the school level. As curriculum shifts beyond the textbook, student internet usage at home is equally important. Many schools and districts allow students to take home the school’s laptops, but this proves futile when a lack of connectivity is present. With the goal to have all students connected to digital learning education by 2020, schools and districts are also addressing the void by:
- Installing Wi-Fi hotspots into low-income/public housing areas
- Providing unique options such as enabling Wi-Fi on school buses
Hopefully, their hard work will help to alleviate the growing concern of technology expanding inequities and instead unify students across all economic backgrounds in their learning pursuits.
Hope for the Future
As the old saying goes, limitation breeds creativity. The beauty of incorporating digital learning into classrooms is the endless opportunities for creativity and innovation it provides. Today’s classrooms are embracing new resources and technology, and often the only limit to their capabilities and success is the user’s imagination.
The future (and the now!) is digital, so filling the digital divide is essential. The digital learning landscape has a long way to go in doing that, but there’s still a lot to celebrate! Online and digital learning platforms are proving to be vital tools for students who struggle to communicate in the traditional classroom. We know that as we strive to think of ways to make technology accessible to all students, we need to continue to heighten awareness of this problem for students who are limited so that no one is left behind.
How does your school stack up? In what ways do you use digital learning to strengthen your student’s learning experiences? Share your celebration and what digital learning means to you! Head over to the Digital Learning Day site to register your event on the #DLDay map and remember to tweet @OfficialDLDay and @EdgenuityInc with #DLDay to tell us about how digital learning has positively impacted you and your school community.
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