Six Questions to Foster Effective Digital Learning through Policy
Alexandria, VA –Weeks after the coronavirus pandemic sparked widespread school closures, 41 percent of districts surveyed by Education Week said they were still not ready to implement online learning for all students. According to a new NASBE analysis by ISTE’s Ji Soo Song, a key barrier districts face is educators’ lack of capacity to deliver instruction using technology-based models. State policymakers can play a role in ensuring that distance learning is accessible to all students and that teachers are equipped to leverage it to accelerate learning. Song lays out six questions to help state leaders carry out this work.
- Do we share a vision for effective teaching and learning with technology? A shared vision starts with clear standards for technology use. State boards can convene experts, as North Carolina and Nevada have done, to review current education technology standards and strengthen them.
- Are there incentives for educators to seek professional learning in technology-empowered teaching? State boards can specify technology competencies for educators and match them with professional learning. Wyoming, in revising its digital learning plan, appealed to a variety of stakeholders to identify competencies in most need of support.
- Are educator preparation programs preparing teacher candidates for effective technology use? Preparation programs should equip preservice educators with pedagogical knowledge on how best to integrate technology to support learning.
- Do state funding models include investment to sustainably improve educator quality and student learning experiences with technology? Over the past few years, Utah provided $20 million annually in grants to help districts launch digital teaching and learning. Other states, like Wyoming, leverage ESSA’s Title II-A and IV-A funds to cover professional learning and certification in technology use.
- Does our state help students become productive digital citizens? Digital citizenship instruction requires more than a focus on online safety, cyberbullying, and internet etiquette. Virginia, Utah, and Washington have encouraged districts to broaden digital citizenship instruction to ensure that students can conduct themselves responsibly online.
- How can our state board advance equity in digital learning? Technology strategies must be grounded in not only providing equitable access to devices and the internet in schools and in homes but also in the definition of effective use of technology and a vision for how all students can benefit.
Song points out that some states have been better prepared than others to meet the technology challenges and gaps COVID-19 has illuminated and exacerbated. However, “when the worst of the pandemic has subsided, students will still face a landscape in which the workplace has shifted significantly,” says Song. “By convening and asking questions to assess the nature of technology use in their state contexts, state boards can take steps toward narrowing the digital use divide and ensure that the state’s educational programs prepare all students with the skills they need to succeed.”
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NASBE serves as the only membership organization for state boards of education. A nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, NASBE elevates state board members’ voices in national and state policymaking, facilitates the exchange of informed ideas, and supports members in advancing equity and excellence in public education for students of all races, genders, and circumstances. Learn more at www.nasbe.org