Digital Learning Day Explores Possibilities of Ed Technology

National Digital Learning Day aims to spotlight the nexus of education and technology, making students and the wider community aware of just how fast things are changing. While the biggest gathering was at Washington DC's Newseum, February 6, 2013 saw many other student technology events around the country. The Journal's Leila Meyer reports that more than 20,000 teachers planned to take part in the many activities.

Digital Learning Day is a national campaign to promote digital literacy and spotlight successful instructional technology practices in the classroom. The event is organized by the Alliance for Excellent Education with support from fifty national core partners.

The Digital Town Hall in Washington, DC was broadcast live online with the Newseum's capabilities. The Newseum is a museum about the history of the free press in the United States. The Town Hall event there drew some high-profile speakers and attendees. Digital Learning Day is sponsored by the Alliance for Excellent Education, so its president, former West Virginia Governor Bob Wise, was one of the speakers and participants. Education Secretary Arne Duncan also attended, as did some Congressmen and White House staff.

Some Digital Learning Day events around the country put students in charge of the teaching. Missouri 8th graders planned to discuss and learn how to answer a grandparent's question, "How does a computer work?" In Connecticut, some high school students opened the school's doors to people from the community. Students showed visitors how iPads work, and demonstrate apps. While Digital Learning Day is supposed to be a K-12 event, students at Spalding University in Kentucky became the instructors for a day, showing their professors how to use favorite apps.

Other schools planned events in which students of all ages used technology to create something. In Virginia, fourth-grade students made video commercials about how their school uses technology. The commercials were aired on local TV as a lead-up to Digital Learning Day.

Parents were the focus in some other places. A Wyoming school chose to sponsor a Family Day to talk about online safety and how to use technology with kids. Other schools offered parents time to visit and see what kinds of technology projects their children have been working on.

Digital Learning Day events also included continuing education for teachers and administrators. It can be very hard to keep up; not many years ago, just having computers in the classroom was a big deal, but now teachers are expected to know about ebooks, iPads, phone apps, online classes, and many other things.

Digital Learning Day is still a fairly new event, but some school districts have already challenged each other to create more events for each annual DLD. Florida, a state with a mandate to change to digital textbooks very soon, has been an enthusiastic participant.

Miami-Dade County Public Schools had the largest number of teachers participating in last year's Digital Learning Day. This year, the district has created the Miami Dade Challenge, an official challenge to other large school districts to see which one can get the most teachers signed up to participate in Digital Learning Day. Districts that have taken up the challenge include Baltimore County and Prince George's County, both in Maryland, Chicago Public Schools, and Charlotte Mecklenberg Schools.

Of course, technology businesses also recognize the opportunity that a day devoted to digital resources can provide. Google published suggestions for using their online collaborative documents for term paper creation or checking the many capabilities of their GoogleMaps feature for geography projects. PBS's Learning Media branch also suggested ways to use their archives.

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