March 07, 2012 - On Feb. 1, 2012, a majority of states, including Michigan, hundreds of school districts, thousands of teachers, and nearly 2 million students participated in "Digital Learning Day"; a nationwide celebration of innovative teaching and learning through digital media and technology that engages students and provides them with a rich, personalized educational experience.
The Alliance for Excellence in Education, which sponsored the event, defined digital learning as "any instructional practice that is effectively using technology to strengthen the student learning experience."
Digital learning encompasses a wide spectrum of tools and practices, including the use of online and formative assessments, increasing the focus and quality of teaching resources and time, online content and courses, applications of technology in the classroom and school building, adaptive software for students with special needs, learning platforms, e.g., Moodle, Blackboard, teachers and students participating in professional communities of practice, providing access to highlevel and challenging content and instruction, and many other advancements.
In particular, blended learning is "any time a student learns, at least in part, at a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home and, at least in part, through online delivery with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace."
Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Federal Communications Commission chairman Julius Genachowski on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2012 challenged schools and companies to get digital textbooks in students' hands within five years.
The Obama administration's push comes two weeks after Apple Inc. announced it would start to sell electronic versions of a few standard high-school books for use on its iPad tablet.
Digital books, both those created by publishing companies and teacher-made books—which is happening here in Clarkston, are viewed as a way to provide interactive learning, potentially save money, and get updated material faster to students.
"At a time when technology has transformed how people interact and even led to social uprisings in the Middle East, education has too often lagged," Duncan said.
"Do we want kids walking around with 50pound backpacks and every book in those backpacks costing 50, 60, 70 dollars and many of them being out of date? Or, do we want students walking around with a mobile device that has much more content than was even imaginable a couple years ago and can be constantly updated? I think it's a very simple choice."
In his Feb. 9 budget message, Governor Snyder suggested online instructional programs (blended learning and online instructional programs) as one of the specińc criteria schools districts must offer in order to receive future, additional funding from the State of Michigan's revenue surplus.
This is part of the Governor's Any Time, Any Place, Any Way, Any Pace educational reform initiative.
On Friday, Feb. 3, 2012, 20 CCS teachers from all grade levels gathered to share their classroom uses of digital technology.
The excitement in the room was palpable as teachers described the ways that pilot technology and teacher guidance is enhancing students' learning experiences.
Many students in Novi, Holly, Hazel Park, Troy, Brandon, Avondale, Oxford, Farmington, Walled Lake, Rochester, Birmingham, and Bloomfield Hills attend completely wireless schools.
Students in Clarkston do not.
Teachers in Finland focus their students on the development of big understandings and deep thinking.
Beyond standardized tests, upon which Finland's students perform very well, Finland's students spend more time learning less content and demonstrating their depth of understanding.
In another high achieving country, Singapore, the government declared:
We want to nurture young Singaporeans who ask questions and look for answers, and who are willing to think in new ways, solve new problems and create new opportunities for the future.
And, equally important, we want to help our young to build up a set of sound values so that they have the strength of character and resilience to deal with life's inevitable setbacks without being unduly discouraged, and so that they have the willingness to work hard to achieve their dreams.
When your child goes off to the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Princeton, Western Michigan, Oakland University, Wayne State, or Duke, it is likely that sitting in the seats directly next to him/her will be a student from Finland and a student from Singapore.
Four years later when your child applies for a job with a global company, it is very likely that also included in the online stack of resumes will be submissions from students from Finland.
The Clarkston Community Schools recently completed a comprehensive strategic planning process that included input from various stakeholders.
Those involved in the process developed a needs list that is available on the district's website.
The process also elicited a revised vision, mission, and learner profile that focuses on individual students, the development of their minds, and their preparedness for and contributions to a global marketplace.
With the needs list in mind, the Clarkston Community Schools' Board of Education resolved to give the community the opportunity to vote on May 8 for a bond election that allows the district to move forward with its vision, mission, and learner profile for every single student, now and in the future.
Included in the needs list is the establishment of 1-to-Global Learning environments in each of our schools and classrooms.
Here, the district will supply each student with a digital learning device that will open up the world of learning and better prepare our students to compete with those in Rochester, Birmingham, Novi, Espoo, and Kallang.
Toward this end, five overarching principles will guide our decisions regarding technology, the curriculum, and instruction, including:
• to foster in each student the dispositions embodied in our Mission, vision and Learner Profile (in what types of thinking do we want our students to engage?)
• to focus on the deep exploration of big ideas (what's worth learning and thinking about?)
• to make learning both individual and collaborative (how do we attend to and celebrate individual students and simultaneously collectively engage our learners?)
• to make learning interdisciplinary (how do we make K-12 learning a coherent experience?)
• to provide students with the tools to demonstrate and perform their learning (how do we know that each of our students has learned and can think? what evidence will we accept?)
In next week's paper, I will share more information related to how your child's educational experience will change, through a focus on these principles. Please stay tuned (or read the entire article now at the district's Website).
Dr. Rod Rock is Clarkston Superintendent of Schools. Let us know what you think by writing us at Clarkstonnews@gmail.com. 5 S. Main Street, Clarkston, MI, 48346, or call us at 248-625-3370.