Jeb Bush

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Digital Learning Now! is a policy group stemming from the “Digital Learning Council,” originally formed by and co-chaired by former governors Jeb Bush, of Florida, and Bob Wise, of West Virginia.

As a strong proponent of digital learning options, I registered for and attended an Education Week sponsored seminar on 03.03.2011 that was framed around DLN’s “10 Elements of High-Quality Digital Learning” released in a statement by the group issued on 12.01.2010. I will include a link to that document for any who choose to read it–it is not terribly long as it was somewhat hastily put together in December.

THE ELEMENTS

  1. Student Eligibility
  2. Student Access
  3. Personalized Learning
  4. Advancement
  5. Content
  6. Instruction
  7. Providers
  8. Assessment and Accountability
  9. Funding
  10. Delivery

The above ten elements are largely the same as those elements used to judge high-quality traditional instruction, so I have neither problem with the face of the elements nor the (albeit simplistic) statements defining the elements. And, while I have stated above my strong support for more digital learning options, including addressing the prospects with the local superintendent of schools and several school board members, I do have some problems with this initiative.

CONCERNS WITH DLN’S POLICY

The first concern is the apparent lack of significant “in the trenches” experience with daily education or management of students. On the executive team, only one of eleven members is clearly identified with a school district, Joel Klein, of New York City Public Schools, yet his position within the schools is unidentified. (Joel Klein is the former Chancellor of the New York City Public Schools and is recently retired.) The remainder of the executive board includes two former politicians, four representatives of charitable foundations, two representatives of national political associations (one ostensibly representing high-level state educational technology directors),  one high-level state bureaucrat, and the president and CEO of iNACOL, a non-profit group representing the interests of online curriculum providers.

Most of the 100 contributing members to DLN are politicians, business representatives (including several whose represented interests–curriculum providers, technology manufacturers, online curriculum providers like K-12, Inc. and Connections Academyhave much to gain under the policy proposal) charter school associations, and others with specific agendas and vested interests such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the LMS (learning management system) provider Blackboard, Inc. While it is positive to have members of the business, political, and philanthropic entities involved, what is glaringly obvious is who is not involved: representatives of the current public school systems in America. That alone is enough to cause one to question what is truly driving this policy proposal.

One need not read far in the document to determine that the purpose of the group is clear: a dismantling of the current educational institutions. No one need question that our public school systems need to embrace change. Most educational leaders understand the need for change and are implementing changes, particularly where technology is concerned. One key take-away from the webinar (hosted by Ed Week but led by the above-mentioned Connections Academy) is that all educators need to embrace technology and would be wise to complete career development coursework in educational technology. Change is a part of life and is necessary to the survival of competitive institutions, but we need not dismantle what we have to create systemic change; we need to work with not against the establishment in order to evoke on a broad scale the kind of systemic change most Americans would like to see. In order to work with the establishment, DLN needs to include educators and educational leaders from within the existing system–especially educators like Jim Sonju and Justin Baeder who are already creating change within the existing structure.

DIGITAL LEARNING NOW!

DLN has a bold mission and should be applauded for championing systemic change within American education. Above is the link to Digital Learning Now’s homepage. At the bottom of their page is a link to the December 1, 2010 document. You can also follow Digital Learning Now! on Twitter: @diglearningnow. The group is definitely here to stay with funding and support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Broad Foundation, The Walton Family Foundation, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, McGraw Hill Education, Apex Learning, Cisco Systems, the Pearson Foundation, Smart (think Smart Boards), ETS, Connections Academy, and Scholastic. They have strong backing from The Charter School Foundation, and New York’s School of One. The group will issue a progress report, the “Report Card on Digital Learning,” detailing state-by-state progress toward the digital initiative in October 2011. Widespread adoption of technology for delivery of learning and for enhancement and individualization is imperative, but DLN’s perspective without including those in the trenches is both simplistic and overly optimistic.


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