Last week’s Digital Learning Day shone a light on technology in learning, a sometimes forgotten piece of the educational and school choice mosaic. DLD was a way to raise awareness that adding technology to a curriculum can boost engagement and achievement, especially in traditionally underserved students.
Standing in the way is the “digital divide,” which often keeps poorer students without ready access to high-speed Internet from using these tools as easily as other students. The digital divide was the focus of this year’s DLD.
Bob Wise with the Alliance for Excellent Education wrote that the disparity is “creating a widening divide between the students who can access online assignments and supplementary learning materials at home and those who cannot, most of whom are poor students of color.”
At Westtown-Thornbury Elementary School in Pennsylvania, every grade level participated in DLD to bring attention to the issue. Some used online learning tools, some took part in a video chat with other participating schools, others played games. “It’s really all about showcasing innovative practices teachers are doing to help move their students forward and prepare them for their future by integrating digital tools purposefully,” Nora Wheeler, principal of Westtown-Thornbury, told the Daily Local News.
One fifth grade class is creating a video on 1600s Jamestown, encouraging other settlers to come. When the video is done, teacher Matt Rogers will post it online. “When I was growing up, whenever we created a project, it was for the teacher or it was going to go on our refrigerator at best,” Rogers said. “Now, if we create something, it’s going out to the world. That’s what Digital Learning Day is all about – share what you’ve done.”
Wheeler said it’s important for education to feel relevant in a student’s life, and technology can make that happen. “In order to make school relevant, kids need to see that school looks a little bit like their real lives,” she said. “If they walk into a school and never see technology, there’s an instantaneous disconnect with their real life. Also, it’s to make it not just a token use of technology, but to make it so that it’s benefitting and adding to their daily functioning here.”