How Digital Learning Is Affecting K-12

No one can deny that technology is quickly making its way into every avenue of our lives, from the way we’re entertained to the way we become more productive at home and work. Education is yet another arena where technology is making its mark, and that mark is becoming increasingly larger and more significant with each passing school year. Just a few decades ago, most schools only had enough computers for their staff and a computer lab. Now, nearly every classroom from kindergarten through twelfth grade has a handful of computers, if not more, available for student use. We see toddlers using smartphones and young elementary students teaching their parents how to use a tablet, while older students are being prepared for technology-based jobs that don’t even exist yet. Digital literacy is becoming increasingly important for every individual in our country, regardless of age, and our educational models are quickly shifting to account for this important and rapid change.  

How Digital Learning Is Reshaping All Aspects of Education

Technology plays an important role in the home lives of many, but as it makes its way further into the school systems, it’s important for educators and parents to notice how exactly it is impacting every area of education. Not only is digital learning and integrative technology affecting how students learn, but it’s also impacting how teachers teach and how they experience their own professional development. In addition, digital learning is impacting school politics and culture, as well as the administration.

While technological shifts are happening quickly in classrooms all over the country, professional development is still primarily taking place without the use of interactive technology and enhanced digital learning. About 60% of schools and districts still complete their professional development courses with in-person courses and workshops. Why not take the digital learning era by the horns and allow teachers to collaborate with those outside their district via online and tech-friendly professional development? Slowly, schools are making this shift, but it’s important for both the teachers and the students that this is done with a bit more urgency.

Administrators and school district leaders are generally supportive of their teachers, and they strive to meet the needs that the schools and teachers have. However, many administrators are used to non-technological schools, so they may be a bit more hesitant than their staff to make big changes and begin integrating technological advances. Yet, as teachers get more immersed in educational technology and as administrators see the advantages that it brings to their schools, they too are making the leap into increased digital learning by focusing on integrative technology and digital literacy within their entire school.

The way that teachers present information to their students has shifted slightly over the past several decades, but educational technology is bringing even more changes to the way that teachers teach. In previous years, the typical classroom consisted of a teacher lecturing, students half-heartedly taking notes, textbook assignments for homework, and assessments at the end of a lesson. Not only are teachers beginning to utilize more innovative and engaging curriculum programs within the classroom, but they’re embracing the concept of the “flipped classroom,” where students are first presented with new information at home and then delve deeper into learning in the classroom. The more digital literacy a teacher has, the more he or she can integrate these educational models in the classroom to expand their instruction and implementation of concepts.

Students are learning in brand new ways too, especially when they have easy access to technology outside of the classroom and more advanced tools within the classroom. With digital learning, teachers are able to assign video lectures or readings for homework, which students complete on their own time, and the class time is then spent further exploring the concepts learned via technology. Students can watch tutorial videos, complete hands-on experiments with technological devices, and interact with new material in brand new ways when they utilize digital learning.

How Digital Learning Leads to Deeper Learning for Students

It’s a well-known fact that the more a person interacts with new information, the more completely he or she will understand it. When it comes to educating students, repetition and thorough understanding are key, and that is what digital learning supports. Students can engage with material and concepts over and over again in a variety of ways, and when they are part of a flipped classroom, they’ll have more class time to ask questions and further explore the information. Digital learning is more diverse in its presentation as students can engage with the material through lectures, demonstrations, games, tutorials, and so much more. It allows for different types of learners to experience the concepts in a way that make the most sense to them, improving retention and understanding.

What You Need to Know About Digital Learning in the Classroom

Although significant headway has been made to integrate technology into the classroom, there is still a long way to go to truly embrace digital learning and to make advances with digital literacy among students. Here are the most important things you need to know about digital learning in the classroom and how digital learning affects K-12.

There are still substantial obstacles. Whether it’s a matter of funding, access, or simply integration, a number of obstacles still stand in the way of complete integration of digital learning into our schools. Some students don’t have access to technology or the internet at home, making it hard for teachers to assign tech-related homework assignments. Some schools don’t have funding to include both the technology and the training in their standard educational model. Digital learning is becoming increasingly important, and many schools and school districts are still in need of some solutions to integrate tech fully into their educational systems. 

Professional development is a major focus. Not only in terms of general professional development, but digital learning is also important when it comes to educating our educators. Teachers need to know how to work the technology that is in their classrooms, and they need to be able to make the most of it in order to instruct students as thoroughly and effectively as possible. Teachers should have access to online collaborations with other educators, and they should have at-home access to as many in-school technological devices as their students do to further improve learning and retention in their classrooms.

The flipped classroom is growing and evolving. How students learn is changing drastically, and a large part of that is with the integration of the flipped classroom. Students are now doing what used to be classwork at home, and they’re further engaging with the concepts at school, which used to be part of their homework. The more thoroughly students can explore and interact with what they’re learning, the better they will understand and remember it, leading to more academic success in students and schools across the US.

New skills are a large focus. Not only is digital literacy a huge part of digital learning, but students are learning new skills from their technological interactions that will serve them well beyond their schooling years. Students who are part of a flipped classroom are given more personal responsibility when it comes to their learning and education, allowing them to become more independent and accountable at an earlier age. They are also learning how to interact online in a respectful, responsible, and mature way, which is becoming more and more important in our social media-driven world. Students are learning about collaboration and teamwork, problem-solving and critical thinking, and much more that older generations never got a chance to experience in school.

Planning is key. Schools cannot just go out and purchase new technology and expect to increase the digital literacy in their building. They must plan and research and explore the various options for technological integration and digital literacy before taking the leap. Proper implementation is more important than the technology itself, as is the technological education of the teachers being asked to use this technology. The technological infrastructure of the school also may need an overhaul during the planning process, as students won’t benefit from technology in the classrooms if they can’t use it as intended due to a poor infrastructure.

When it comes to how digital learning affects K-12, the response is vast and seemingly never-ending. Even though it seems that technology has already taken over our entire world, the digital literacy age is just beginning and we should expect to see even more advances in digital learning and educational-based technological advancement in the upcoming years.