Friday, December 19, 2008
Mapping the future of digital education
A recent article from Education Week discusses the initial findings from a digital education project known as the American History and Civics Initiative. The project is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and is an effort to map the future of digital education by comparing historical thinking tools to 21st century skills. Many of the findings presented in this article support conclusions that NACS has been pointing out for the past two years in various presentations on the future of digital course materials. For example, the initial findings indicate that the future for digital education will be based on interaction and engagement, and simply converting traditional content to a digital version will not work. The CPB project also points out an interesting framework of conditions and elements that must be in place for digital course materials to truly affect student learning in a positive way. For example, the article notes that certain conditions will need to be met including: learning environments that keep students engaged, designing content that connects with other sources and allows students to learn through the media of their choice, using content layering to motivate students and help build skills, and using technology to implement project-based learning techniques. Once the digital content has been created to meet the conditions, there are three other elements that must be achieved for effective digital learning including: a distribution system which does not restrict access to technology, learning platforms which monitor student’s performance against standards, as well as preparing teachers for the digital future. Achieving these elements may not be easy because standards, policies, and teaching methods that have been in place for years will need to be reviewed and reworked. For example, the researchers speculate that statewide policies regarding the use of traditional textbooks in the classroom will need to be revised because textbooks will play a different role in the future than they have in the past. Additionally, technology polices will need to be reviewed, “Most schools demand that their students drop back half a century when they enter: no cell phones, intermittent Web access, copied worksheets, prescripted paper-based content. Building 21st-century skills means having 21st-century schools, places that encourage open exploration and require collaboration, that engage by design instead by a teacher’s singular efforts.” The recent YouTube video entitled “A Vision of K-12 Students Today” also emphasizes some of these points. The empirical data CPB is collecting are something stores should take note of and factor into future plans for course materials. Others in higher education should also pay attention, as it has implications for faculty development and other institutional investments as well. We look forward to learning more about the findings as the study progresses.