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The Importance of Digital Learning Day

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Students using iPadFebruary 1, 2012 marked the first ever Digital Learning Day, a day dedicated to exploring, promoting and celebrating innovative teaching and instruction practices that engage students in the digital world around them. This daylong celebration was spearheaded by the Alliance for Excellent Education in recognition of the fast-changing landscape of the social and work milieus students find themselves a part of. But as a whole, education has lagged behind the digital revolution either because of funding or reluctance or some combination of the two.

Why is Digital Learning Day so Important?

 Digital Learning Day sought to bring awareness to the transformative power of digital learning in the classroom and the amazing potential digital technologies have to engage students in new ways and motivate them to create and collaborate.

The day kicked off with a National Town Hall meeting — accessed online, of course — featuring U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski. The town hall profiled teachers using technology to effectively deliver instruction and innovative education projects across the country. Schools around the country used Skype to join the conversation and interact with the speakers.

In addition to town hall, participants in Digital Learning Day including 39 states, 15,000 teachers and more than 2 million students all engaged in some form of digital learning activities and innovation. The activities across the nation showcased some of the best in digital education.

Many schools celebrated by using iPads. Miller Junior High School in Aberdeen, Wash., distributing an iPad to every 7th and 8th grade student. Other schools used the notebooks for science projects, health projects and photography. Schools hosted showcases of digital learning or created videos highlighting best practices. Kindergarteners in Topeka, Kansas used Skype to communicate with other classrooms and learn about how other students learn.

The daylong celebration also generated quite a bit of buzz in the digital world with bloggers commenting on digital education trends, teachers and leaders using Twitter and social media to share information and online articles in publications like eSchool News and the Christian Science Monitor.

What’s clear from the events of the day and the subsequent conversations about digital instruction is that education needs to catch up to the digital revolution in the workplace and the social sphere. Students shouldn’t first hear about the “cloud” or interact with a wiki after graduation. Schools should incorporate digital and technology innovations seamlessly and meaningfully into daily instruction. Plus, digital technologies can grow and enhance the collaborative, creative and critical thinking skills students need to succeed later in life.

Digital technology is here to stay. If schools truly want to prepare students for the 21st Century, they will need to embrace the ideas from this year’s Digital Learning Day and get ready to showcase their best next year.

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