Yesterday was the first-ever national Digital Learning Day organized by the Alliance for Excellent Education headed up by former WV governor, Bob Wise. 15,000 educators and 1.7 million students from 39 states participated in this remarkable event. In addition, an untold number of education advocates, enthusiasts, reformers, policy wonks, journalists, consultants and K-12 vendors also participated via web broadcast and social media.
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski kicked off the national town hall meeting with an announcement that the Obama administration wants digital textbooks to be implemented in every U.S. public school within 5 years. Yes, 2017.
"The President and I are convinced that with technology, we have an extraordinary opportunity to expand educational excellence and equity, and personalize the experience for students," said Duncan.
He went on to say that the United States must move from “laggard to leader” in education and that “technology can enable the high-quality teaching and learning that today's students need to thrive as citizens, workers, and leaders in the digital age, and the globally competitive knowledge economy."
Chairman Genachowski noted that 1/3 of Americans still do not have broadband at home and that the FCC is committed to changing this through programs like the eRate program and the Comcast program providing families on federal free or reduced lunch access to broadband at only $9.95 per month – about one quarter of the average monthly rate. The chairman also challenged both the states and educational content providers to help ensure that all students have access to digital resources within 5 years.
The remainder of the 90-minute town hall meeting highlighted the work of educators and school districts across the country that had implemented technology solutions to increase student achievement. Educators in Mooresville, NC, were understandably proud of their program that tied technology to a curriculum initiative, using data to differentiate learning. The result? They have increased their high school graduation rate from 64% to 91%. Hearing teachers, students, and superintendents from around the country highlighting their own success with great enthusiasm about the impact of educational technology was exciting for anyone connected to improving educational outcomes.
So what is the takeaway of Digital Learning Day for K-12 publishers and edtech providers?
- The bus is leaving the station. If by some chance you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t started down the digital path, it’s time to wake up and get moving.
- There is a real opportunity for the K-12 market to help speed the implementation of new, effective technologies by working with schools and school leaders even more effectively by smoothing out obstacles and providing top-notch professional development with our product offerings.
- At one point in the Duncan/Genachowski conversation, someone mentioned the education ecosystem. What is that? It’s all of us. We all have a stake in the successful implementation of educational technology as parents, educators and citizens.
- There are tons of digital tools to help parents, students, educators and vendors communicate with each other sharing best practice and recommendations. Let’s use them.
· The entire business community (not just the K-12 community) has a stake in the outcome of this effort. The future of our companies and our country depend on our ability to ratchet up the quality of graduates who are equipped with 21st century skills to take on global problems in a global marketplace. Get into the schools. Volunteer. Mentor. You can make a difference.
What are you doing to speed our schools’ transition to broadband delivery of digital curriculum, professional development and services?