Simple, scalable steps toward digital learning

Last week, I attended ISTE’s annual gathering in Denver. It was just as big and busy as ever, but despite the bustle, I was able to have deeply engaging conversations with several edtech leaders and test drive a number of new tools supporting the transition of our traditional classrooms to digital learning environments. Announcements from two technology giants struck me as worthy of a quick note, not because the resources they released were jaw-dropping, but rather, because they were not. They were simple and useful. Most importantly, they were made available at scale and for free to educators.

Demonstrating their commitment to ED’s #GoOpen initiative on Monday, Amazon showcased Amazon Inspire, a new service that allows teachers to search and share open digital education resources. An online repository is not a new approach to the distribution of lessons and other course elements, but the combination of Amazon’s infrastructure and ability to attract, identify, and make available the very best teacher-developed content could have a tremendous impact on the adoption of OER in schools and districts throughout the country.

That same day, Google released a suite of classroom tools that enable richer digital learning experiences for and interactions between teachers and students. Chief among them, the public availability of their Expeditions program. Emerging from early efforts to support accessible VR through their Cardboard viewer, Google has been piloting Expeditions in schools for the past year.

The prospect of children who might not typically have the chance to journey much beyond their neighborhood suddenly “exploring” the ruins of an ancient civilization, “swimming” with sea life around a coral reef, or “strolling” through the Louvre provides schools and educators with a remarkable opportunity to both enrich the cultural lives of their students and deepen their understanding of concepts that might otherwise be abstract.

More to come...