It’s Digital Learning Day.


Isn’t celebrating Digital Learning Day a bit like observing Black History Month?

I mean, shouldn’t we be teaching teaching black history (and women’s history and Latino history and Asian American history and dead white guy history and Native American history and . . . well, history history) all year long? I  can certainly understand the sentiment – for far too long, it was just Dead White Guy History.

Black History Month was a way to encourage teachers and kids to learn more about a part of who we are that was often pushed to the margins. The hope was that these critical pieces of US history would be incorporated throughout the instructional year. The problem? Too many social studies teachers still use February to have kids memorize random black history facts and call it good.

I get the same sense about Digital Learning Day. Not that there is anything wrong with the idea of a Digital Learning Day – the folks over there seem very concerned about best practice and argue that digital tools should be embedded into instruction as part of everyday practice.

But . . .

We know that doesn’t always happen. To often, technology and digital tools are used in places and times that don’t improve learning. We buy the latest “shiny” gadgets that everyone else is buying and expect them to help our kids learn because, well . . . they’re shiny. We love our iPads. We think we need to implement BYOD programs, right now. We don’t always think these things through very well.

So today, five ways for how to not celebrate Digital Learning Day:

1. You should convert your lecture notes and handouts to PDFs so your kids can read them on a computer in the lab down the hall. Cause we know when a kid reads your notes on an electronic screen in digital format rather than paper, she has a better chance of retaining that information. I think it has something to do with the electricity the screen emits – goes straight into their brain.

2. Post your test online but have students show their work on paper to be turned into the basket on your desk. Isn’t this how most businesses make lots of money?

3. Install as many flash card apps onto students’ mobile devices as possible. They can review your content using the same methods you’ve always used but now they can do it on the bus ride home. Encourage them to watch talking head math review videos using their YouTube app – because an ineffective face-to-face lecture is magically transformed into an engaging learning activity when viewed online.

4. Install strict filtering and blocking software limiting internet access to both teachers and students, ensuring that teachers have to ask (using a paper form submitted to the central office) two weeks in advance for an instructional web site to be unblocked. Of course, this also means that any social media or networking tools are blocked for students.

5. Because your district spent so much money on technology, make sure that every teaching and learning activity uses technology. Make the learning fit the technology – because we know digital tools should be the focus of every lesson and that all those old, brain-based best practices don’t work anymore.


We should be teaching black history (and women’s history and Latino history and dead white guy history and Native American history and . . . well, history history) all year long. And we should be doing the same with digital tools. There are some great things out there. I love the DocsTeach app from the National Archives. People are thinking about how apps fit into instruction. Teachers are using video games. We should be using great web sites and Web 2.0 goodies as a part of what we do.

But we need to do it with intention and deliberate thought – because when we do it right, we teach better and kids learn more.


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