Digital Learning Day 2014

Despite the technical issues we were having with our website, the show must go on. I was lucky to have an event like Digital Learning Day to take my mind off the server drama. While not directly connected to my project, the event taught me a lot and truly shifted my perspective on just how many people and organizations are invested in educational technology.

At the heart of Digital Learning Day is quality teaching and learning from educators and students around the world. The day itself is really a celebration of the innovative lessons and projects that we know happen everyday in and out of classrooms. It is an opportunity to highlight some of the best tech-forward districts, organizations, and corporations from around the country. In order to make such a large international observance, the Alliance for Excellent Education calls upon the support of schools, nonprofits, and for-profits who believe that digital learning is a key component of a strong education.

The National Youth Leadership Council shares in that belief and is honored to support Digital Learning Day as a core partner annually. As a core partner, we encourage our networks of educators and young people to participate in Digital Learning Day. To further support this initiative, partner organizations also share their quality resources for the digital learning toolkits that can be found on digitallearningday.org. One of the best benefits of being a partner for this initiative is attending the national event in-person. And one of the biggest benefits of being the “ED tech” specialist at work is getting to be that representative to attend the in-person celebration.

The celebration started the night before at a beautiful reception held at the Alliance for Excellent Education’s office. It was nice to have a few hours to meet professionals who have mutual interests in educational technology, youth leadership, and access to quality teaching and learning tools. I left the celebration buzzing from all the wonderful conversations and new connections I had made. My excitement for the next day was growing by the second.

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Climbing up the steps to the Library of Congress in Washington D.C., butterflies started fluttering as I knew the day would be dynamic both in-person and online. A large group gathered to take a tour of the building that is covered in beautiful detail and symbolism. Libraries are the foundational setting for digital learning and media, which made the Library of Congress a perfect location for the celebration. And that location has also been the setting for many historical political decisions related to educational technology.

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After the tour we piled into the Coolidge Auditorium where we were welcomed by Dr. James Billington to the library. While the day of amazing examples of digital learning was just beginning, Tom Wheeler, the Chairman of the FCC reminded us that many educators do not have the access to the internet they need in their classroom. He shared that his goal was to have the first Erate updates completed before fall of 2014. Roberto Rodriguez, Special Assistant to the President for Education Policy, echoed Wheeler’s concern for internet access and added that this is really an issue of equity within education.

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The day became an exhibit of some of the best digital learning from around the country. Participants had the opportunity to talk with youth, educators, and administrators that were eager to share their replicable programs and projects. In the midst of the live celebration, many of us were also trying to keep up through Twitter and the Google Hangouts throughout the day. These digital and in-person opportunities to connect expanded personal learning networks and added new resources to our ED tech tool belts.

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The live event culminated with a panel of district staff, state administrators, federal employees, and leaders from national organizations. The most dynamic panelist was a student, Amber Garrett from Talladega County, who shared the youth perspective from before and after the personalized learning initiative was implemented in her district. She cited that technology helped her develop 21st century skills and gave her opportunities to use those skills in the real world.

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Digital Learning Day 2014 taught me that while at the core of this issue is teaching and learning, everyone should have a vested interest and role in educational technology. If we don’t provide our young people with the best education possible our society, economy, and future is at risk. The use and access to technology and media, quality teaching methods, and excellent curriculum must be supported by students, educators, administrators, policy makers, IT professionals, community-based organizations, and corporate partners. The Alliance for Excellent Education does an amazing job organizing Digital Learning Day. NYLC is honored to be a core partner.

If you missed the excitement from the day, check out #DLDay on Twitter or digitallearningday.org

DSC_0670My view at lunch : )

DSC_0652The young scholar on the right and the older scholar on the left represent life-long learning.

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