“Technology” Initiative or “Learning” Initiative?

5/16/2014 12:00:00 AM

ipad cartThere seem to be an increasing number of “1:1″ initiatives, “mobile learning” initiatives, “BYOD” initiatives,  and “digital learning” initiatives throughout the country, perhaps in response to Obama’s call for digital textbooks to be in every student’s hands within 5 years (from 2013) or in response to online testing requirements.  Perhaps, though, the purpose of these initiatives is something more.

Here is what I am wondering.  If we call an initiative by the name of the strategy, rather than the results we hope to see, will we actually achieve the end goal?  Have we even identified what the end goal is? Isn’t the end goal about more than access to technology?

Falcon Virtual Academy, Colorado Springs

I had a moment of clarity yesterday, brought about by tuning in to the first of Broward County Public Schools Webinar series (through the Center for Digital Education) on their “Personalized Learning” initiative.  The first webinar of the series was about planning.  As I listened, I thought how odd it was that the planning they were really talking about had everything to do with getting a digital device into the hands of every student.  I thought I was listening to a webinar about a 1:1 initiative, and that perhaps I had tuned in to the wrong webinar.

Falcon Virtual Academy, Colorado Springs 

Then it struck me.  Personalized Learning is the end goal. (-or should be.)  A major strategy to accomplish this is getting a personal digital device into the hands of every student, so of course this is a huge piece of the planning.

targetWhat a simple concept. By labeling the initiative what it is, I believe there is a much better chance of achieving it. Why? Because the measures of success will be to determine the level of personalized learning that is accomplished, or perhaps even student achievement, growth, or skill acquisition.  If the initiative is just about getting technology into kids hands, then the measures of success will likely look quite different. They will be more quantitative in nature, and probably not as focused on the learning–or the student.   Re-labeling the initiative might even be the shift needed to get all of the right people to the planning table – not just the technology team, but leaders in curriculum, instruction, and assessment as well.

What initiative do you have in your school or district? What do you call it? What are the measures of success? Are they in alignment? Would it help to call it what it is?

cross posted at Innovations in Education

Nancy White is the 21st Century Learning & Innovation Specialist for Academy School District 20, providing professional development on 21st century skills and technology integration, and working with the IT-ES team to carry out the district’s 21st Century Learning Plan. Nancy served on an ad-hoc team to help with the integration of 21st century skills into Colorado’s revised content standards, and co-authored The Colorado Learner’s Bill of Rights. Read more at Innovations in Education.

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