This past week, I served as a DLC (Digital Learning Competencies) Ambassador with the Department of Public Instruction. We visited four different sites around Western North Carolina. We started off in Northwest North Carolina in Wilkesboro on Monday. On Tuesday, we moved into the Triad area where we worked with educators. Wednesday, I got to return to my home region and work with Charlotte area educators. Our final stop was Brevard with extraordinary educators from Western North Carolina. Each day provided amazing opportunities to learn, grown, and share with other educators. I offered two sessions. One involved Digital Citizenship and how we can move that into Digital Leadership with our students. The other session introduced participants to using Goosechase in their classroom. Goosechase is an online scavenger hunt tool that is very motivating.
Each day I worked with a variety of different educators including teachers, substitutes, retirees, counselors, administrators, and university level educators. I learned so much from the individuals that I worked with this week. There is still a great range of access to devices for students. In one of our largest systems, elementary students do not have regular access to devices on a daily basis. There are other systems that provide devices during the school day. We also reminded that for some of our more rural mountain counties, many students do not have access to the internet at home. Having grown up in the mountains, I fully understand about not having access to many services such as cable and the internet. Often utility companies do not provide access from the main road to houses in mountainous regions due to the expense of creating the infrastructure. I remember that my family did not have cable at home till I was in the 8th grade. Prior to then, there really was not option for television outside of the traditional antenna. As one teacher from Polk County shared, many of her students live on a mountain side and there is limited cell phone reception for hot spots and the cable and phone company do not provide high speed internet to their homes. Further, there is the expense of having high speed internet. For many of our regions, there is only provided which limits competition. I am fortunate to live in a place where we have at least three different providers for high speed internet. As the teacher shared with me, she cannot realistic expect for students to complete digital assignments at home due to the lack of internet. Thus, she only holds them accountable for digital assignments while they are at school. It is important to remember that even today, many regions and areas of our state still struggle with a missing infrastructure for services that some of us take for granted.
I also learned that we have a strong creative group of educators who are true innovators. They are able to see new and unique approaches to using digital tools to help students have access to a larger world. I was inspired by another DLC ambassador, Chris Tuttell (@ChrisTuttell), who was sharing some of the phenomenal work that she has done with elementary school students. These students are using podcasting as a way to collect oral history of African-Americas in Southeast Raleigh. Their school was the first high school for African-Americans in Raleigh. The students have connected with alumni to learn what it was like for them to attend this high school. The students have interviewed these alumni and recorded their stories. With these stories being recorded, they have learned the importance of oral history and why stories matter. The students have also become empowered to see that they can make a difference in their community even at a young age. With the access to simple digital tools and software, they have been able to go beyond. As another DLC ambassador, Amy Tart (@cards4scholars), shared "Use tech to expand what students can't do in real life." These students have creating a lasting legacy for the school and the African-American community in Southeast Raleigh. An interesting caveat to this story illustrating the transformative effect that digital learning can have involves the students and the adults supporting them seeking to have the school recognized as a historical landmark. Having recognized the importance of the work that they were doing, they sought to have the school recognized as a historical landmark. In seeking recognition from the state, they found many obstacles. However through their research, they discovered that the school had an approved application from the national level but that due to some changes in administration at the school and the transition of moving from paper based applications to digital versions of the historical requests, the school was not officially notified of their approval for historical landmark status from the national level. Due to the vision of Chris's students, they learned that the school was approved and they were able to formally host a recognition ceremony for the school.
This is the power that Digital Learning brings to our classrooms and the new realities that can be created. We now can help our students dream big, create strong visions, and turn those visions into realities. These are just some of the things that I learned and experienced this week as a DLC Ambassador. The DLC Ambassadors provide some amazing learning opportunities that not stimulate your mind but will touch your heart as you are challenged to grow and learn in new and exciting ways. Next week, we shift down east where we will roll the DLC Train to four additional sights. It should be another exciting, opportunity filled week. Join us if you are able.
The ideas shared here are my own and do not necessarily represent my employers, associations, or organizations. These thoughts are entirely my own.