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Tech Reflections for Digital Learning Day

February 17, 2016

There’s a theory about music that also applies to education in many ways. It’s called the “auditory cheesecake” theory, and it compares music to dessert: sure, it’s nice to have, but does it actually give us anything vital or necessary? We hear the same question about edtech all the time. Digital teaching tools and strategies are certainly exciting, but are they really meaningful, or just icing on the cake?

As we celebrate Digital Learning Day today, edtech guru Eric Sheninger has some suggestions for how digital tools can make a real difference in the classroom – and how teachers can create the environment that makes that change happen. 

As Sheninger puts it, technology is “transforming community and the give-and-take between students and teachers.” Digital tools can increase collaboration and feedback, which helps students grow. In addition, thanks to videos and online chat platforms, students can take their learning outside the classroom, letting them share their ideas in new environments and with more time to reflect. Perhaps most importantly, tech puts students in the driver’s seat. When they have the power to choose the program and set the pace, students are able to take ownership of their learning experience.

That’s an awful lot of potential, but what can teachers do to bring it to life? Sheninger suggests that the best strategy is to meet students where they are. If they obsess over social media, try using Twitter in the classroom. Or try a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) program, which lets students use systems they’re already comfortable with. If the tech they use in school looks like the tech they enjoy at home, students will be able to engage and take charge that much quicker. Ultimately, when you use edtech in a way that transforms the learning experience – instead of as an added touch to an old routine – it becomes something much more integral to the entire process. Forget dessert - digital tools can have the biggest impact when they’re part of the main course.

Happy Digital Learning Day from all of us at the Smarter Schools Project!