Tomorrow is Digital Learning Day. The one day of the year that we celebrate “digital” learning. Differentiated, I guess, from the other 365 days1 of “non-digital” learning?
But what exactly are we “celebrating” on that day? According to the official website (or at least the site using that name with an .ORG domain), the explanation begins this way:
With so many new types of digital devices, educational software and mobile apps continuously developed, it’s hard to keep up with the latest and greatest advancements in educational technology.
Much later they get to the reasoning that the day is “about enhancing the role of the teacher in America’s classrooms” but that’s really not the same as the heavy emphasis on the technology that came before.
Ok, so all this ranting about a relatively minor bit of linguistics might seem picky. But words do matter. And I wonder if celebrating things like “digital” learning doesn’t contribute to the fact that technology still hasn’t been fully integrated into the instructional practice in most classrooms.
We continue to emphasize the devices, websites, and software as somehow separated from the learning process. As if using a screen to transmit formerly paper-based information results in a different kind of understanding about the world.
Almost seven years ago, I wrote about an effort in our overly-large school district to actually define “digital learning”. My memory is a little fuzzy, but I don’t recall us ever completing that task.
That post was a follow up to a rant about an old favorite cliché that was directly related to digital learning: 21st century skills. Whatever happened to them?
Anyway, enjoy your Digital Learning Day. But this year, try to emphasize the learning over the digital. Then do the same on each of the next 365 days as well.
The photo shows a Skinner Teaching Machine from 1957, part of the collection at the Smithsonian Museum of American History. Do we call that mechanical learning?
1. Leap year, remember?