The Direct Network

Closing the Digital Learning Gap

Posted by Dean Asher on Jul 23, 2015 11:12:00 AM
Topics: digital content, K-12

Ed tech is rapidly evolving (and so are the buzzwords that come with it.) If you're not careful, it can be hard to keep up with the changing times. Methods of adapting technology that were cutting-edge in the classroom a few years ago garner a blasé reaction today. This contributes to the Digital Divide and the Digital Learning Gap.


To explain these concepts further, check out Karen Gator's open letter at Bright, "How Should We Approach Education's Digital Divide?"


We are both working to solve the problem of equity in education. I’ve spent my career in education, first as a teacher, and then as a lifelong advocate of improving learning opportunities for EVERYONE through technology.

I am sure you see — as I do — pockets of excellence in education. You know, those places where kids are designing, making, composing, filming, animating, publishing, talking with each other. Students that are presented with complex challenges, like water availability and food security, and work to figure them out. I’m so happy when I see students connecting across cultural and national borders with video chats and building their learning portfolios. There are moments that make me wish I could stay a student!

But there are also too many places where that is not happening. In those places, all too often, the teacher’s focus is on classroom management. Learning is mostly measured through tests. Students may occasionally use technology, like headphones, for simple grammar drills. No one seems to be having much fun.

I have tried to understand how technology can best “power up” the opportunity for these students to actively learn. A few hundred years ago, the printing press and free public libraries caused literacy rates in Europe to soar by making books readily available to all.

Today, digital learning offers a similar and no less dramatic chance for people everywhere to acquire the knowledge, competencies, and drive that can prepare them to continually learn new skills for a future we can’t predict.

But to actually realize the full advantages of learning, we have to close the Digital Learning Gap. This goes beyond the Digital Divide, which focuses on adequate access to technology. Closing the Digital Learning Gap means giving students the ability to learn how to use the technology in powerful ways.

As a first step, educators, parents, and policymakers (that includes us) have to figure out how to enable access to personal technology and the Internet, both at school and at home. Second step: all learners and educators must gain sufficient digital literacy to participate fully and responsibly. Without knowing the whys and the hows, access can be meaningless. Third, students must ALL have ample opportunities to use the technology to solve, collaborate, research, design, create, and publish — so they can be lifelong learners.

I’m guessing you will agree with this premise. If so, I am interested in your take on how we can best make this happen. Let’s be real about the bumps we need to be wary of along the way.

Karen Gator, Bright
At MBS Direct, we're constantly learning more about the latest trends and breakthroughs in EdTech. You can read David Liu's response to Karen's letter (and follow their correspondence as their discussion evolves,) but we want to hear your thoughts. What are you doing at your school to encourage technology in the classroom? What have you seen that's worked? What do you hope to accomplish? Let us know — we can even feature it here on the Direct Network.

About Dean Asher

Dean Asher is a former copywriter with MBS. Though he no longer writes for us, he is still proud of having helped this blog continue to evolve as an industry-leading resource of news and original content.

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