Happy Digital Learning Day!


Happy Digital Learning Day!  I’m posting TWO blogs today – one on our Incubator site and a guest blog for my old Pearson colleagues (I’ll post the link in “The Cracks” area of the site once it’s live).  I realize that special days are now becoming a bit less “special” as time goes on.  National Oatmeal month starts us off in January, National Yo-Yo Day hits in June, and as if December needed help in the sweets department, the 8th is National Brownie Day followed by the 9th which is National Pastry Day.  (I think they are looking into Diabetes getting its own week starting the 10th.)

But I’m no less excited about Digital Learning Day!  After all, it’s far enough removed from my birthday (March 6th if you’re playing at home – I’m a 2X shirt, I love watches, and I won’t say no to good deli meats), so this day can certainly stand alone.

As I think about the ramifications of this day, I simply look around.  I’ve seen some amazing things, specific to Digital Learning.  That’s for sure.

  • I remember watching the MIT research team talk about the Motorola Tablets dropped in Monchi, Ethiopia with no instruction or training. The children of the village soon learned to read and write, without a single prompt from a person.  (They even figured out how to ‘hack’ the devices before it was all said and done…)
  • I’ve seen several demonstrations of Google Glass and Occulus – augmenting reality in very different, but very education-interesting ways.
  • I think of the work by HeadMagnet to create an adaptive reminder system that helps you retain based on your, individual rate of memory decay.
  • I’ve seen the Anatomage table Saint Leo uses for anatomy and physiology, allowing for full dissections without a body.
Puentedura's framework for technology usage in a learning context.

Puentedura’s framework for technology usage in a learning context.

I’ve seen some amazing stuff!  But on this day of celebration, I think to the conversations I’ve had with Dr. Candace Roberts and Dr. Holly Atkins from the Education department.  Ed tech, hardware, and software, are only as good as the practitioner using them.  The context of learning can be enhanced and augmented, but 99 times out of 100, you still need to teach.  You still need a strategy.  You still need the “learning” part of digital learning.

Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE it when I run into a techie.  I’ve met technologists from Apple, Google, and Samsung who were myopic in their focus and love of tech!  I talked code with a Halo game designer and with Jane McGonigal about the technology she used in World Without Oil.  I love listening to them talk about how excited they are regarding gadgets, software, code, or integration.  They LIVE for that stuff and I WANT them to!  Their passion becomes a better phone or website.

But I don’t feel the same level of enthusiasm when I run into a professor who can only talk about tech.  Yeah, I get it – it’s fun, it’s cool, and it’s new.  But at this point in my career I’ve seen too many great technologies languish in obscurity because there was no strategy behind their implementation.  I’ve seen too many devices thrust upon students who didn’t know what to do or how to do it, and so the learning factor actually went down.  And I’ve heard too many professors describe technology as the “innovation” at their school.  Not people, not processes, and not groups.  More important to me is Steve Jobs, who delivered the iPad, the iPhone, and the iPad, than the devices themselves – the end result of his work.

Let’s just remember that there are TWO important words in Digital Learning, ok?  One requires tech, but the important one requires people.  I’m creating a learning innovation incubator at Saint Leo.  Note, I’m not creating a technology department or an army of app developers.  I’m building a community of people who can strategically curate and implement technology for learning.

So dust off SAMR or RATL or whatever your favorite measurement for effective use of technology is and shine it brightly on whatever new technology you want to implement for better learning.  (Using ANY framework is generally a better idea than no framework at all…)  But please remember that Digital Learning requires multiple inputs to be successful.  One of those inputs is people.

Good luck and good teaching.
Dr. Jeff D Borden
Chief Innovation Officer

About Jeff Borden

My title at work is ‘Chief Innovation Officer.’ So I'm trying to transform teaching and learning at scale. How do I do that? Through my "life" jobs. Primarily, I'm a dad and husband. But I'm also a professor, writer, professional speaker, comedian, researcher, lifelong learner, musician, dog-owner, and even a ranked disc golfer... I've spoken to, trained, or consulted with hundreds of thousands of educators at all levels, in numerous countries, K-20, about how to teach and learn effectively in the 21st Century.

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