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Education 2.0: Can Digital Learning Day begin a classroom revolution?

Thirty-nine states, 15,000 teachers, and 1.7 million students are expected to participate in a series of events and webcasts on Wednesday, Digital Learning Day.

Grant Beacon Middle School student, Jeriah Garcia, works out an algebra problem on his school-supplied iPad in class at Grant, Colo., in January. Organizers of Wednesday’s first-ever national Digital Learning Day hope it will inspire more educators, students, and parents to harness new technologies to enhance young people’s enthusiasm for learning.

Andy Cross/The Denver Post/AP

With iPads making their way into kindergarten classrooms from Maine to Tennessee, it may seem like a given that American education is embracing technology for the rising generation.

But technology’s presence – and effectiveness – varies widely. Just 40 percent of teachers reported that they or their students use computers often during instructional time in a 2010 report by the National Center for Education Statistics.

Organizers of Wednesday’s first-ever national Digital Learning Day hope it will inspire more educators, students, and parents to harness new technologies to enhance young people’s enthusiasm for learning and help them master key 21st-century skills.

“It is time we stop asking students to ‘power down’ when they go to school and instead to ‘power up’ and use their interest in technology as a new way to learn,” says Bob Wise, former governor of West Virginia and president of the Alliance for Excellent Education, an advocacy group in Washington, D.C., that spearheaded Wednesday’s events.

Thirty-nine states, 15,000 teachers, and 1.7 million students are expected to participate in a series of events and webcasts, including a live national town-hall meeting at 1 p.m., Eastern time, featuring US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski. (To tune in, click on this link.)

During the town hall, schools from Colorado to New Jersey will connect via Skype to talk about how they’ve improved student achievement through comprehensive plans to integrate digital learning tools and train teachers to make the best use of them.

One example to be featured Wednesday afternoon: The Mooresville Graded School District in North Carolina embarked on a digital conversion plan in 2007, and it has since seen student grades and graduation rates improve.

Staff and all fourth- to 12th-graders have received laptop computers, and younger students have access to Smart Boards and electronic response devices so they can interact during classroom lessons – for instance, by pushing a button to “vote” for an answer to a question posed by the teacher.

Educators in the district say there’s “collaborative hum” among teachers and students, and a chance now to individualize student learning plans.

Town-hall participants will also hear from National Online Teacher of the Year Kristen Kipp from Jeffco’s Virtual Academy in Colorado, whose high school English lessons have helped everyone from gifted students to pregnant teens.

On a live-chat feature on the Digital Learning Day website, educators have already exchanged tips on digitally enhanced science projects and antibullying lessons that have been especially effective for students. And they’ve raised questions about how to ensure that students don’t damage their laptops at home.

By giving students better access to digital tools, districts can help close the digital divide and promote “the four C’s: collaboration, creativity, communication, and critical thinking,” said Bailey Mitchell, chief technology officer for Forsyth County Schools in Georgia, during a webcast on the site Wednesday morning. 

Instead of instructing from a textbook, teachers have to “relinquish some of the control [and] think differently” about the types of assignments that will capitalize on digital tools, Mr. Mitchell said.

But for many K-12 school systems, new technologies, social media sites, and video games are still eyed with suspicion, says Richard Halverson, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Education. “You have this real split awareness…. For the people who use [such tools] … they are invaluable. [But] for many K-12 schools, it threatens the existing relationship between teachers and students, and it’s seen as … something to be controlled and banned rather than something to be exploited for learning purposes.”

National Digital Learning Day is a chance “for people who are in charge of schools to think, how can we use this, rather than whether we should use this,” says Professor Halverson. “[It shows] the potential for these tools to change teaching and learning.”

This article was originally posted at

Michigan Announces Plans to Host Digital Learning Day

LANSING – The Michigan Department of Education, in partnership with the Alliance for Excellent Education, Monday announced its participation as a state host in the first-ever Digital Learning Day campaign and kick off to Michigan’s “Year of the Digital Learner.”

This national campaign is designed to celebrate innovative teaching and highlight practices that make elearning more personalized and engaging for students, exploring how digital learning can provide all students with the opportunities they deserve — to build the skills needed to succeed in college, a career, and life.

“In Michigan, the first state to require students to successfully complete an online course or learning experience, digital or online learning provides a powerful alternative for students who have a need for greater flexibility with their education due to individual learning styles, employment commitments and comfort with traditional school environments,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Mike Flanagan said. “There is a significant potential to expand the use of online learning as a practical strategy to help students stay in school and graduate. We’re excited to be kicking off the Year of the Digital Learner on Feb. 1.”

Through this work and by hosting a Digital Learning Day on Feb. 1, Michigan strives to build momentum for a wave of innovation that changes policies, shifts attitudes, and supports wide-scale adoption of these promising instructional practices.

Digital Learning Day will be the start of a year of digital learning activities to be designated as 2012 Year of the Digital Learner.

“Digital Learning Day is more than just a day,” said Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia. “It is about building a digital learning movement that provides teachers with better tools to truly provide a quality education for every child.  Simply layering on technology alone will not move the education needle very much.  Effective technology combined with great teachers and engaged students have the potential to transform the world of learning.”

As the host of Digital Learning Day, Michigan will highlight a school that is using innovation to make a difference for students. Michigan also will continue to reach out and share resources that support the goals of and participation in Digital Learning Day and 2012 Year of the Digital Learner.

A press conference will be held at East Lansing Public Schools’ Donley Elementary School, 2961 Lake Lansing Road, East Lansing, at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.

All education stakeholders — parents; teachers; students; librarians; administrators; policymakers; and school, district, and business leaders — are encouraged to sign up now. Participants will have access to targeted toolkits outlining ideas and ways to plan their Digital Learning Day celebration, as well as updates, informational videos, webinars, and other resources.

No matter the approach, no matter the grade level, no matter the subject or geographic location, no matter a teacher’s specific comfort with using technology, this campaign will challenge education professionals and policymakers at all levels to start a conversation, improve a lesson, and/or create a plan.

To learn more about how to be a part of this groundbreaking event, sign up at You can also “like” Digital Learning Day on Facebook at and follow the discussion on Twitter using the hashtag #DLDday.

Watch the official announcements of Digital Learning Day at For more information on Michigan events, go to

This article was originally posted at

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