WASHINGTON – Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Wednesday that digital learning — innovative instruction through effective use of technology — is vital to improving the American education system.
“As we move forward, I’m thinking technology—not for technology’s sake — but technology as an amazing teaching tool, technology as a way to empower teachers, has a way to help us in tough economic times to be able to become better in our craft and engage our students in very different ways,” Duncan said.
The goal of Digital Learning Day – Wednesday — is “to shine a light on the best learning strategies that will improve education and to ensure that every student–regardless of race, sex, income or geographic area–has the same opportunity,” according to former West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise, president of Alliance for Excellent Education, a think tank that aims to improve education for at-risk high school students.
The Newseum and The Alliance for Excellent Education hosted more than 100 teachers, students and education leaders from around the country who participatedin workshops focusing on innovative strategies and tools. There was was a Digital Town Hall, in which teachers around the country shared successful digital learning strategies.
Meri Robinson, technology instructional specialist at Prince George’s County Public Schools, said she has found success with the flipped classroom strategy, which she presented to the attendees. The strategy inverts traditional teaching method, by moving homework into the classroom and giving instruction online outside of the classroom. So students watch lectures at home at their own pace and come to school for concept engagement from the instructor.
“The idea of having 25 to 30, 35 to 40 students all learning the same thing, the same way at the same time doesn’t make sense,” Duncan said, supporting the flipped classroom strategy. “The flip side of that is, how do we have children learn at their own pace?… It’s all about helping each student learn as quickly as they can to move on to the next lesson… There is so much good we can be doing here.”
Klamath Fall, Ore., elementary school teacher Jeremy MacDonald, who also uses the flipped classroom approach, said students need to be “social, we want them to connect. That’s part of the learning environment, but how do we engage students in those areas?
MacDonald suggested integrating certain mobile applications, such a Remind101, into student learning to balance the social aspect with learning.
Duncan said he supported Digital Learning Day because having great teachers learning from each other is “pretty extraordinary.”
“Please challenge me to think about how these kinds of opportunities can become more of the norm than the exception,” Duncan said. “I’m arguably one of the biggest fighters for more technology in education.”