Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Today is Digital Learning Day!

A few weeks ago, when my five year old daughter lost her first tooth, she quickly said, “Can we Skype with Nana?” She loves Skyping, FaceTime and Tango, to connect and communicate with our family and friends who live far away. My husband remarked, “What happened to the old fashioned phone call!” and we both realized that her perspective on technology is so different than ours.
It is only natural for children today, who grew up with cell phones and laptops, or even iPads, to have technology as an integral part of their lives.  It is only natural that they will turn to Google for searching and digital maps for directions.  It is no wonder that some students must feel as if they are stepping back decades when they enter classrooms with no access or opportunities to use technology.  As educators, I think it is imperative that we weave technology into the fabric of our curriculum to create meaningful, relevant and powerful learning experiences for our students.

Today is a Digital Learning Day. Today is a day that spotlights educators and their students for effectively for blending technology into their classroom.  Approximately four million people will participate by watching Digital Town Halls, sharing innovative tech lessons on Twitter (#DLDay) and featuring digital learning opportunities within classrooms across the nation. We are fortunate that many days in Los Altos are digital learning days for our students! To recognize Digital Learning Day, I compiled a list of the most successful uses of technology that I have seen in classrooms this year.

Fourth graders Skyping during class.
1. Skype with another classroom or an expert in the field.  Bring the facts and information from textbooks to life and make researching an interactive experience! By interviewing people using Skype or FaceTime, students learn about setting appointments, perhaps time zones, interviewing etiquette and utilize note taking. Looking to see a Skype experience in action? Check out this class blog post from Lily Albert's fourth grade class following their Skype with explorer Mark Wood.  Check out Skype in the Classroom for more resources about contacts for Skyping opportunities.

2.  Utilize Edmodo for online class discussions. There is never enough time to hear from each student during class. Why not create a class Edmodo group to involve all students in contributing to a conversation?  Members can share multimedia resources, such as video clips, websites and documents in instants.  We have over 286 teachers and 1500 students using Edmodo here in Los Altos. In fact, Blach PE Teacher Steve Kane uses Edmodo with his students as a forum for eighth graders to discuss health related topics they cover in class.  Students in Meghan Greenbaum and Cindy Kane's Blach Science classes are chiming in to share opinions on stem cell research. Students appreciate having a venue to express their opinions and make their voices heard.  The best part- students use written communication skills, practice netiquette and all have a chance to participate.

3.   Integrate QR Codes! By using a QR Code generator, any website URL becomes an scannable image. Use QR codes to point students to resources online. Create a QR code scavenger hunt, QR code valentines or a QR code Open House! Jill Croft, fourth grade teacher at Covington, used a QR code for a student scavenger hunt.  Students love creating QR codes and scanning all the codes to go on digital adventures!

How about a student generated QR Code bulletin board?
4.  Use class websites or blogs for student publishing opportunities. When students publish their ideas to a broader audience online, the bar for written communication is raised. Using google sites, sixth grade students at Loyola and Blach seventh graders are integrating learning artifacts within reflective e-portfolios. Sixth graders at Santa Rita contribute to a class blog several times each trimester. Check out their blog here.  Online and digital publishing experiences provide an authentic world-wide audience and engage students in the writing process.

5.  Incorporate Digital Citizenship lessons by using Common Sense Media. As students utilize more digital tools and resources, lessons that address digital citizenship concepts are essential. Common Sense Media provides a wealth of online resources for students, parents and educators to help children “to thrive in a world of media and technology.” 

Here's to transforming more days into Digital Learning Days!

Ellen Kraska is the Technology Integration Instructional Coach within the Los Altos School District. She is passionate about edtech, creativity and collaboration within innovative learning environments.  You can email her at and/or follow her on Twitter @kraskae.

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