The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
Digital Learning Update
Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
June 17, 2016
At our June 27, 2016 special meeting, staff from the Department's Office of Digital Learning (ODL) will provide an update on the state's efforts to prepare districts for next-generation learning, teaching, and assessment.
Digital Learning: Background
"Digital learning" refers to the thoughtful, deliberate use of technology to support teaching and learning. With technology we can:
- tailor the learning environment to afford students more control over the place, time, content, and method of instruction;
- offer differentiated learning paths for students based on demonstrated competency in a subject or skill;
- provide students access to a greater range of learning opportunities and course options;
- encourage teacher networking and knowledge-sharing;
- promote greater student engagement and collaboration with peers and adults; and
- help teachers engage and intervene more quickly with struggling students.
While there is a continuum of experiences that also includes blended learning (online learning in schools) and the range of other digital learning opportunities that are expanding in many of our districts. Our goal is not to determine which model is the best, but rather to support schools and districts in providing options and models best suited to students' learning needs and preferences.
Technology can enhance the effectiveness of good instruction. While computer-based testing may be a driver underlying the adoption of technology in schools, the goal is to equip schools for next-generation learning and teaching, not simply for online assessment.
Through ODL, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education supports the expansion of digital learning capacity and literacy to advance learning for every student in the Commonwealth. ODL offers policies, guidance, professional development, and support to schools in the following areas: district technology and infrastructure capacity, classroom level instructional tools, assistive technology resources, virtual schools and online courses, and emerging digital learning trends.
The office collaborates closely with the Digital Learning Advisory Council (DLAC), whose members include nationally-recognized experts in technology and online learning. By statute, the DLAC provides advice and guidance to the Board and to the Commissioner on these matters.
The Office of Digital Learning is leveraging the capacity and expertise of external partners to further the adoption of digital learning in Massachusetts. These partnerships are detailed later in this memorandum.
Update on Statewide Technology Readiness
The DLAC has been asked to monitor districts' progress toward technological readiness for computer-based testing and to identify ways in which the state can assist in those efforts.
Looking Ahead to the 2016-17 School Year
During the 2016-17 school year, I intend to invite members of the Board to visit a school district during the school day so that you have the opportunity to see technology-supported learning and teaching in action. The Department has received many offers to host. I look forward to arranging a visit and will provide the Board with more information in the future.
This fall I will engage the Board in a longer conversation about educational technology and online learning. Earlier this spring the Board voted, with reservations, to renew the certificate for the Massachusetts Virtual Academy at Greenfield Commonwealth Virtual School (GCVS). My staff is analyzing data on the performance of students in the state's two virtual schools (GCVS and the TEC Connections Academy Commonwealth Virtual School, or TECCA). Once these analyses are complete and include data from spring 2016 assessments, I will present the Board with the information and my recommendation on possible next steps.
Kenneth Klau, director of the Office of Digital Learning, Barbara Treacy, chair of the DLAC and a national expert on digital learning, and Julia Freeland Fisher, member of the DLAC and director of education for the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation, will present information at the June 27 special meeting and respond to your questions. We look forward to the discussion.
Digital Learning Advisory Council (DLAC) Members