Digital Learning & Technology

Acquiring Technology for Next-Generation Learning, Teaching, and Assessment

Devices are a key cost driver in educational technology. All devices have unique capabilities and limitations. Decisions on which device to purchase should be informed not only by cost, but also by the device capability and the age of the student.

  • Tablets, for example, are popular for younger students, because many children are first introduced to technology through touchscreen devices such as smartphones. However, in the absence of an external keyboard, it can be difficult for some students to develop good keyboarding skills.
  • Chromebooks are inexpensive and easy to manage. However, they are designed to be used primarily while connected to the Internet, which means they cannot handle memory-intensive programs like Photoshop.
  • Laptops such as PCs and Macs have more robust computing power, but they tend to be more expensive.
  • Leasing is a long-term financing solution for keeping technology current, and tends to be better for more expensive devices. Both devices and the systems that support them (e.g., access points, servers, and switches) can be leased. Well-negotiated lease deals offer flexible payment options, preserving capital dollars and avoiding "funding cliffs" or long-term debt. Most vendors will agree to a "non-appropriation" clause, which gives districts the right to renegotiate the terms of a lease if the district's budget changes unexpectedly from one year to the next. Leases can often be bundled with managed services and support.

Digital Literacy and Citizenship

Digital literacy is essential both to prepare students for personal and civic efficacy in the twenty-first century, and to prepare and inspire a much larger and more diverse number of students to pursue the innovative and creative careers of the future. The abilities to effectively use and create technology to solve complex problems are the new and essential literacy skills of the twenty-first century.

The state's 2016 Digital Literacy and Computer Science (DLCS) standards define digital literacy as the ability to:

  • Use digital technology, communication tools or networks to locate, evaluate, use, and create information.
  • Understand and use information in multiple formats from a wide range of sources when it is presented via computers.
  • Perform tasks effectively in a digital environment.
  • Read and interpret media, reproduce data and images through digital manipulation, and evaluate and apply new knowledge gained from digital environments.

Digital citizenship, by contrast, refers to the norms of appropriate, responsible behavior with regard to the use of technology.

Students should have regular opportunities to learn and apply digital literacy knowledge, reasoning, and skills throughout the year; likewise, students should receive instruction in and be able to demonstrate good digital citizenship skills whenever (and wherever) they use technology. The following resources can help educators, students, and parents/guardians identify learning opportunities in digital literacy and citizenship.

  • Keyboarding and writing skills using technology: DESE has a resource that shows how the 2016 Digital Literacy and Computer Science Standards and the 2011 Massachusetts Curriculum Framework for English Language Arts and Literacy address keyboarding and writing skills using technology, as well as Technology Skills for Computer-Based Assessment.
  • Free online courses: Per the 2013 virtual schools legislation, the Department offers free online courses, in partnership with EverFi. Topics include financial literacy, digital literacy and responsibility, and healthy relationships. Professional development is also free. For more information, please contact Jessica Donovan , EverFi Program Manager.
  • Internet and cell phone safety: The Cyberbullying Research Center has information on how to identify, prevent, and respond to cyberbullying. The National Crime Prevention Council has resources to help girls stay safe on the Internet and information about cell phone safety and Internet safety. CommonSense Media also has a variety of resources for parents/guardians about healthy technology habits for children of all ages.
  • Games and activities: Webonauts Internet Academy is a web original game for PBS KIDS GO! that gives 8- to 10-year-old children an opportunity to have some fun while exploring what it means to be a citizen in a web-infused‚ information-rich world. NetSmartz, an initiative of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, has resources designed to introduce younger children to basic Internet safety concepts through interactions with animated characters.

Online Courses

Many students are taking online courses, and many schools are thinking about offering them. DESE strongly encourages parents/guardians to consult with their child's public school prior to enrolling their child in a course offered by a private virtual school. In addition to asking whether their child will be able to earn credit(s) toward his or her high school diploma (and how much), they should ask whether their child's grade in the course will be calculated in his or her grade point average (GPA), if the public school calculates GPAs. Parents/guardians are urged to always seek written approval from the public school before enrolling their child in courses offered by private virtual schools. The Parent's Guide to Choosing the Right Online Program from the International Association for K–12 Online Learning (iNACOL)] can help parents/guardians make informed decisions.

For districts, a variety of resources exist to evaluate the quality and accessibility of online courses, including:

For online instructor quality, consult:

Last Updated: June 12, 2018

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