Tuesday, November 17, 2015

5 Critical Issues In Digital Learning - Best Practices + Lessons Learned

Today I will be at Google’s New York office speaking on a panel hosted by Google and HMH where I will share insights and best practices for school district leadership teams to use when developing digital learning strategies. I will be discussing five critical issues. Below are some of the insights I plan to share. 


Critical Issue 1:
What initiatives have been prioritized in the past year? How do you ensure successful initiation and sustainability of these initiatives?
  • Computer Science for All
    • We have various partners that provide a computer science curriculum and materials such as Code.org, and Google’s CS First. We provide professional development for teachers who are teaching coding and have an online community where they can stay connected and share ideas.
  • BYOD
    • Our schools have been empowered to harness mobile devices for learning. We have supported schools with a BYOD institute and follow up support in partnership with Common Sense Education and Intel.  
    • We have an online community for BYOD schools and those interested to connect.  
  • Tech Single Points of Contact (SPOC)
    • Schools designate a technology single point of contact. This person is provided with ongoing training opportunities, a website with useful information, a monthly newsletter, and an online community.  


Critical Issue 2:
Name significant obstacles to the “digitally-enhanced learning transformation” that you’re encountering. How are you addressing the obstacles?
  • Two big obstacles schools face are student assessment and teacher evaluation. Most schools are assessing 21st century students and teachers with 20th century evaluation methods. As a result, both teachers and students are not being assessed accurately. Here is how to address each obstacle.  
    • Teacher evaluation: Know how your digital resources help you effectively meet teacher evaluation criteria. For example digital tools change what we typically think of as classroom environment.  When you are using a platform like Google Classroom teacher interaction with students and student interaction with peers looks different and is beautifully documented. Teachers must be able to show and explain this to administrators.  These four articles outline digital resources that support teacher effectiveness.
    • Student assessment: Student assessment is often invisible when using digital tools and it is a part of rather than apart from instruction.  For example, when using a platform like Duolingo, as you learn, you level up and earn rewards. If you don’t know something it teaches you until you’ve mastered it. You don’t need to take a separate assessment, the assessment just happens with the learning.  Another example is with coding. You don’t have students take a separate test. You know they’ve learned because they’ve coded.


Critical Issue 3:
Can you identify one key initiative or partnership that has facilitated the funding and/or implementation of digital-enhanced learning transformations?
  • We launched a program called Innovation Partner Professional Development (IPPD). The program produces expert New York City educators by providing them with best practices in using technology tools and resources for teaching and learning. Industry-leading companies like Google, Microsoft, and PBS have joined in this effort. Participants become experts and share their skills and knowledge by:
    • Supporting colleagues in their schools and districts
    • Modeling and speaking about best practices in effective technology integration
    • Providing professional learning
    • Offering feedback to companies that help to ensure resources meet student needs
    • Building the external profile of the DOE by contributing to blogs, websites, and other media
    • Developing innovative classrooms for inter-visitations
    • Presenting at conferences and workshops
This program is a part of Chancellor Carmen Farina’s commitment to ensure students graduate from New York City public schools with the digital skills they need to succeed. The program consists of online and offline learning as well as networking opportunities and end-of-session recognition and celebration.  We now have hundreds of expert educators that can support schools and districts.


Critical Issue 4:
Reliable connectivity for ALL students, at school, at home, and everywhere and anywhere else is increasingly critical from an equity and practical point of view. How are mobility and connectivity challenges evolving? What successes are you having?


School and community libraries are the key to connectivity. They can serve as hubs for internet access onsite and offsite. Last year Google made a donation that promised to provide free wifi access to families in need. You can read about that here. School libraries can remain open before school, after school, and during lunch to serve as a learning commons with internet access. They can also use Kajeet for students without internet access. Kajeet provides a safe, affordable, solution that provides internet access to students who don’t have it via the Kajeet SmartSpot® device (a MiFi® mobile hotspot from Novatel Wireless) and the innovative Sentinel® cloud portal with controls that enable school districts to provide CIPA-compliant, education-only filtered Internet access.


Critical Issue 5:
What has proven to be successful when creating positive climates of Digital Citizenship for students, staff, parents, and communities? What challenges remain?


Incorporating the voice of the school community has proven successful. We spoke with students, teachers, and parents across New York City to create student social media guidelines delivered in a format selected by students. Teens wanted infographics. Elementary school students wanted an activity and game book.  You can see the teen guidelines at schools.nyc.gov/socialmedia. The elementary school guidelines will be released in the next few months and published at the site as well.


The guidelines are accompanied with professional development and ongoing support for educators and parent coordinators.  

These are some of the success and strategies we have implemented in my district. What do you think? Are any of these ideas ones you would consider? What’s working for you?

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