Digital Learning: Preparation for Tomorrow

Just over a century ago, education theorist John Dewey cautioned that “if we teach today’s students as we taught them yesterday, we rob them of tomorrow.” At that point, industrialization was reorganizing cities, rural communities, and the role and realities of work. To prepare students for their futures, it made perfect sense that schooling should be reorganized as well.

Dewey’s observation continues to resonate nearly a century later. What engaged students five years ago is no longer sufficient to prepare them for success. Technology has changed the flow of information and the dynamics of community, with people spending an average of 4 hours per day on their mobile devices1. A 2010 Kaiser Family Foundation study found that digital natives, the 15- to 24-year-old population with 5 or more years of online experience, are spending more than 8 hours per day connected to media2.

With 80% of middle-skill jobs now requiring technical skills3, preparing today’s students for tomorrow’s world will require great imagination and effort. Digital curriculum can be a powerful corrective force that reorganizes learning to meet students where they are and, more importantly, where they need to be. As teachers, schools, and districts become more sophisticated in their selection and use of digital learning tools, it is paramount curriculum and instructional designers continue to drive high quality, innovative approaches to learning.

As Christy Cheek, CTE Director for Buncombe County Schools in North Carolina suggests, “students today thrive through a combination of digital learning and face to face interaction. Being able to personalize a student’s education through digital learning brings numerous benefits and makes subject matter easier to understand and comprehend since students today are more comfortable with this platform.”

As with all new resources, the benefits are not always immediately realized. According to The Gates Foundation’s most recent “Teachers Know Best” survey, while 93 percent of teachers reported regularly using some form of digital tool to guide instruction, only 58 percent of teachers across all subjects found digital tools effective4. This gap between abundant use and effective use is what informs our work every day.

At EverFi, we have dedicated over 10 years towards understanding what makes digital resources effective and uniquely suited to teach meaningful skills. Every curriculum we develop, whether it’s a course on social-emotional learning or STEM literacy and career exploration, champions five core pillars:

  • Agency and Autonomy — Learning activities are personally meaningful and suited to individual interests.
  • Active Participation — The learner is fully involved in the learning experience, constructing meaning for herself.
  • Real-world Connections — Learning experience draws from realistic scenarios and applications.
  • Evidence-based Content — Pedagogy and instructional approach is grounded in research and best practice.
  • Ongoing Feedback — Instruction is both direct and just-in-time as students perform learning tasks.

EverFi’s pillars for digital learning are connected to a deeper belief that teaching and learning in the 21st century must not stop at traditional core academic skills. While Literacy and Math will always be important, we must educate the whole child5. According to Stefanie Wager of the Iowa Department of Education, we should be “thinking about a well-rounded education for all students and using digital learning to teach collaboration, creativity, communication and critical thinking in order to best meet the needs of students.”

Digital Learning is not a replacement for quality in-person instruction. Instead, it is a booster. This is why, in our own survey of more than 2,500 teachers last academic year, we found that:

  • 88% strongly felt that EverFi’s digital course content enhanced material they were teaching in the classroom.
  • 65% strongly felt that EverFi’s digital course content covered content that their students would not have otherwise seen.
  • 75% strongly believed their students were engaged in EverFi’s digital course content.

Good digital curriculum can bring clarity to difficult-to-teach concepts by representing them in multiple forms, increase engagement by using the same gamification mechanics that are so prevalent in students’ lives outside the classroom, and transform static topics into personally meaningful takeaways. Digital learning can take students further, faster, and in directions that are free for them to choose.

At EverFi, we look forward to the day when digital learning is both commonplace and universally effective. Until then, we will continue to develop courses that prepare students for the world of tomorrow.

Author:

Zach Wagner
EverFi Vice President
K-12 Content and Product Development

 

Sources:

1http://www.digitaltrends.com/mobile/informate-report-social-media-smartphone-use/
2Rideout, Victoria J., Ulla G. Foehr, and Donald F. Roberts. “Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8-to 18-Year-Olds.” Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation (2010).
3http://burning-glass.com/research/digital-skills-gap/
4Teachers Know Best: What Educators Want from Instructional Tools 2.0, July 2016.
5Noddings, Nel. “What does it mean to educate the whole child?.” Educational leadership 63.1 (2005): 8.