Point of View

Getting personal: Technology in the classroom, success in the world

April 2, 2014 

More than ever, technology is turning students from passive observers into active learners in our classrooms. Individual devices and online resources give students choices and let them have more control over their learning while also giving teachers greater time and freedom to work with those who need more attention.

Many of our teachers already know that. They’re already tech-savvy and leaders in their schools and want to continue to take things to the next level. Other teachers are ready to do the same but lack the needed resources, such as connectivity and digital technology.

We want our learners and workers to be successful in today’s technology-driven world. The integration of technology and quality teaching can enable a fundamental transformation. The old way of learning and teaching simply exposed students to information, but now educators can engage learners. Each student has a different style and capability of learning. With the effective use of technology tools, we can accelerate the goal of increasing personal learning options for students and expanding instructional opportunities for educators.

We are encouraged that federal grants for broadband investments in our public schools and libraries have been doubled and that partnerships with the private sector will expand this critical education infrastructure. North Carolina has one of the most innovative broadband education networks in the nation because of these important public-private collaborations. Higher education is shifting from time-centered credits to competency-based degrees. Western Governors University – an accredited online university based in Utah – has demonstrated the value of holding learning constant while letting time vary.

Digital infrastructure and technology are critical to bridging many educational gaps but don’t bring about the change itself. By combining technology with strong school leadership and quality educators, we can change how we educate our children and workers.

As we have traveled to innovative schools and districts that have integrated technology, we’ve heard stories of student success that are compelling and heart-warming – but also validated by data-driven results. Many schools and districts have realized double-digit increases in graduation rates and material mastery over a five- or six-year period. Likewise in higher education, we’ve found that the average time to a baccalaureate degree at Western Governors University is half that of traditional campus settings – and at much lower cost.

The need to develop our vital broadband infrastructure must be followed by digital learning options that enable rigorous and competency-based instruction. State and local policies should nurture a culture of innovation to encourage education start-ups and entrepreneurs who can effectively provide teaching and learning technology resources. Our goal is to bring innovators and educators together. Educators have the clearest sense of what works and doesn’t work when they interact with students every day. Our entrepreneurs bring a spirit of “git ’er done,” about what can go right, not wrong. Public and private collaboration, similar to the partnerships forged to expand education broadband, can lead to more effective learning technologies and improved education outcomes.

Every year, about 4 million children are born in the United States. Each day around 11,000 people begin a lifelong learning experience. Today’s rate of change means that we can’t focus only on what people need to know today, because two years from now it will be out of date. The focus really is about teaching them how to learn, how to take charge. Getting personal.

Bev Perdue is the former governor of North Carolina and chair of DigiLEARN, a new nonprofit organization designed to accelerate digital learning. Jim Geringer is the former governor of Wyoming and serves the vice chair for the group.

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