I have spent the past two weeks serving as a Digital Learning Ambassador for public educations across North Carolina. Starting with certificate renewals for June 30, 2019 and beyond, all educators are required to have a minimum of 2.0 CEUs (continuing education units). When North Carolina passed this requirement, it was definitely a move forward. Many school systems now provide a digital device for student use during the school day. Some systems such as the one where I work, allow our students to take their devices home as well. Many years ago, I remember learning about the "Digital Divide." As someone who taught at an inner city school, I was fully aware that some families where able to provide their students with access to an electronic device to learn. But I also saw that many other families were unable to provide a device for their sons and daughters due to financial limitations. There was a growing concern at that time that those with access would be able to move exponentially forward while those without a device would be left behind. I applaud school systems for working to figure out how to provide all students with access to devices. Many times these school systems have made financial sacrifices and reduced other valuable programs. But I sincerely feel that this has made a world's difference for so many students. We tend to hear less about this digital divide since so we have made progress.
But our work here is not yet done. We must continue to work toward all students have access to an electronic device as well as ensuring that students understand how to manage their lives in a digital world. For the first time in human history, students have the potential to have their entire lives captured digitally. Our students also have the opportunity to learn in enhanced ways that we could have only dreamed about a few years ago. With the advances in technology, it is very opportune that our state has created Digital Learning Competencies to direct teaching and learning in our public schools. These competencies serve as a primer to help educators identify how to effectively integrate digital tools for learning. Additionally, educators are charged to be leaders in digital learning while collecting and evaluating data to make relevant decisions regarding student learning. Further, and in my opinion most importantly, educators are charged with ensuring that students understand how to behave in a safe, legal and ethic way in a digital world. This is what we commonly call digital citizenship (dig cit). Digital Citizenship grew out of citizenship, a key focus area of education. As our world become more digitally integrated, we must ensure that our students develop healthy and appropriate relationships with technology. In my previous role as an Instructional Technology Facilitator (ITF), I was initially surprised at how much time I spent working with parents, grandparents, and guardians of students in helping them understand how to best support students in developing appropriate and healthy relationships with technology.
As I reflect on the important and crucial work that has occurred over the past few weeks with public educators, I am amazed at how much much has been shared and the extraordinary ideas that have been generated. I have seen educators get re-energized and abound with enthusiasm about returning back to school in the next few weeks. I have seen the synthesis of new ideas born of creativity that serve as innovative digital learning practices. I feel good about what educators will be doing this year when students return back to the classroom. I applaud North Carolina, the General Assembly, and the State Board of Education for their support of the Digital Learning Competencies. These entities definitely got it right and the end result is that our students will have a greater opportunity for success as a result of this forward thinking. I am pleased to express my appreciation to those who with the insight and forward thinking to see the need for Digital Learning Competencies for educators. Each of you got it right also!
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The ideas shared here are my own and do not necessarily represent my employers, associations, or organizations. These thoughts are entirely my own.