Yesterday I had the enormous privilege and opportunity to participate in the Digital Learning Day national event at the Newseum in Washington, DC. I first got to be part of the opening keynote panel, where I spoke on revitalizing assessment with digital tools. I was then asked to present a demonstration math lesson. (See my links and lesson plan for both here.)
As I drove home last night, I was reflecting on the work that the Alliance for Excellent Education is doing, and how important this event has become in only two years.
Bob Wise (@BobWise48), director of the Alliance and former governor of West Virginia, told us at the start of the day that nearly 25,000 teachers participated this year, representing millions of students in all fifty states. But it was clear to me after spending the day with the organizers that this project is not just about having a one-shot, one-day publicity event. It is about starting a snowball rolling downhill and starting conversations all over the country.
I love my network. It is where I connect with passionate educators and learn new things about teaching, learning, and growing professionally. Governor Wise and the Alliance are taking the conversation that happens daily among my PLN and broadening its reach.
First, the event itself creates a low-risk entry point for anyone to dip their toes into the technology waters. Rather than being a complex, district initiative with formal training and expected outcomes, having a “Digital Learning Day” celebration lets teachers and students play with new tools and just see what happens. Some of them will continue to explore after the day, and that is how change begins to spread.
Second, we are engaging policymakers. Education Secretary Arne Duncan (@arneduncan) visited during the demo lessons, and during the Town Hall we heard from Representative George Miller (@askgeorge) and Todd Park (@todd_park), the White House Chief Technology Officer. I was struck that all of them seem to have a clear understanding of the real importance of integrating technology into schools. They spoke about enriching the learning environment, about engaging parents and students, and about the power of networks for both teachers and students.
Third, the event is already outgrowing its day, and that is a good thing. But rather than just expand to Digital Learning Week, the Alliance is moving to, as several people tweeted yesterday, make every day a digital learning day. I am particularly interested in the possibilities for Project 24, because it is a systematic way for districts to self-assess and develop a plan that, rather than being about installing someone else’s canned program or selling a software and hardware package, is intended to guide them towards deeply embedded integration.
I’m excited for the future of Digital Learning Day and Project 24 and look forward to contributing to it more in the coming months and years.