Digital Learning Annual Conference

3 Takeaways from the Inaugural Digital Learning Annual Conference

Seven years ago, a wide-scale digital learning conference was unheard of because the majority of school districts across the country weren’t equipped with the infrastructure or technology to implement a robust digital curriculum. Thankfully, over the past several years, federal, state and local leaders have worked to tackle the digital divide, which has results in 98 percent of school districts now meeting minimum connectivity goals. Our team attended the Inaugural Digital Learning Annual Conference (DLAC) in Austin, Texas to hear how online and blended learning is transforming K-12 classrooms across the nation.

Over 500 educators, educational technology vendors, and nonprofit leaders convened to share stories and best practices. Here were our top three takeaways:

1. We must continue to debunk the myth that technology can replace teachers. There is a pervasive fear among educators that fast-paced technology developments like Artificial Intelligence can replace the role of a human teacher. However, teachers are absolutely critical to personalized learning and inspiring students to realize their full potential. Hybrid-learning classrooms have been successful thanks to innovative teachers and school leaders who continue to harness educational technology as tools to enhance teaching and learning.
2. There is an entire “continuum of student voice, choice, and engagement” for shifting a classroom’s culture from “teacher-centered” to “learner driven.” Incorporating student voice is easier said than done. How can educators empower their students to pursue passion and purpose in their own learning? In a Learner Agency resource, the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation illustrates hallmarks of including student voice as a “continuum” between expression, consultation, participation, activism, and leadership. A truly “learner-driven” environment is one in which teachers are allowing students to “guide groups as leaders of change, co-plan and make decisions, and accept responsibility for outcomes.” Instead of giving lip-service to including student voice, educators must consider how to give students opportunities to be active participants in their own learning.
3. While there is no blanket approach to implementing digital learning that will work for all school districts, we have a lot to learn from each other. Nationwide movements like #futureofschool and resources from diverse organizations such as the Friday Institute, Evergreen Education, The Learning Accelerator and Education Elements all serve to amplify best practices in the digital learning space. This conference was a much-needed reminder for online and blended learning practitioners that they have an entire community dedicated to sharing stories and developing tools in support of this work.
To keep the conversation going, join an upcoming #futureofschool Twitter chat.

In their session “Leading Personalized and Digital Learning: A Framework for Implementing Schools Change,” the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation shared applicable strategies and activities with a focus on “vision, culture, professional learning, and empowering teachers and students.”

Thank you to Evergreen Education Group, conference and program advisors and all attendees for a fantastic conference. We’re looking forward to DLAC20!