Digital Learning: Technology Essential to Transform Education

October 8, 2012—Using technology is no longer optional in education; it has become an essential part of 21st century teaching and learning. This was a common theme throughout the briefings to the Digital Learning Environment in Public Schools Committee (DLC) at their inaugural meeting last week held at the Friday Institute for Education Innovation (FI). Members of the FI leadership were part of a briefing about the current state of digital learning in North Carolina.

“In the world of today’s students: all communication is free, easy, and instant; multimedia interactive entertainment is omnipresent; and machines and toys have intelligence,” said Glenn Kleiman, FI Executive Director. “Also, options are abundant; customization is prevalent; everything is interactive and collaborative; and change is constant and rapid.”

Kleiman outlined the work of the Friday Institute highlighting its focus areas:

  • Innovations in K-12 teaching and learning
  • Technology to enhance K-12 education
  • Education workforce development
  • Evaluation and policy analyses

He also briefed the committee on the presence across the state of digital learning with a total of 100 NC local education agencies (LEAs) having initiatives to pilot or implement the use of technology in K-12 classrooms.

Dr. Jeni Corn, FI Director of Evaluation, summarized lessons learned from research and evaluation of digital learning through the work of the Friday Institute. Corn focused on evaluation studies of North Carolina technology initiatives and findings about student learning. Key findings of students engaged in digital learning included: a rise in online course enrollments, higher graduation rates for most participating high schools, increased student engagement and development of 21st century learning skills.

Corn and Kleiman presented this briefing about the current digital learning initiatives with Angela Quick, Deputy Chief Academic Officer at the NC Department of Public Instruction, and Dr. Tracy Weeks, Chief Academic Officer and Interim Executive Director at NC Virtual Public Schools.

Former Governor Bob Wise also spoke to the committee via video conference on behalf of his organization, the Alliance for Excellent Education. In his briefing he commended the work of the Friday Institute, “The Friday Institute has been a great partner for North Carolina education and has pointed the way about what works and what doesn’t. They are a great resource.”

Members of the DLC include: Rep. D. Craig Horn (Co-Chair), Sen. Dan Soucek (Co-Chair), Rep. Marcus Brandon, Rep. Linda P. Johnson, Rep. Marvin W. Lucas, Rep. Jason Saine, Rep. Harry Warren, Sen. Chris Carney, Sen. Malcolm Graham, Sen. Ralph Hise, Sen. Martin L. Nesbitt, Jr. and Sen. Bob Rucho.

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