Today is national Digital Learning Day, during which groups across the country will commemorate how technology is changing education for the better. So what exactly IS digital learning?
Digital learning occurs when students use online programs—guided by teachers—to learn math, science, English and every other subject they would study in a regular classroom. Most importantly, it allows students to control the pace and location of their study, meaning they can learn as slowly or as quickly as they need. We tracked the trend in Commonwealth Foundation’s latest report on digital learning, The Learning Revolution.
In Pennsylvania, digital learning has exploded in popularity, with nearly 28,000 children now enrolled in cyber schools (from zero when they began about 10 years ago). Children learn at home but are in constant contact with their teachers, and also participate in “real-life” sports and arts programs. The flexibility especially helps students who are sick, have demanding sports or performing arts schedules, are gifted, or who are struggling academically. Take 14-year-old Caela, from Lake Ariel, Pa., for whom cyber school has been a lifesaver:
Between kindergarten and sixth grade she was hospitalized 16 times from bronchitis, pneumonia, allergies and asthma. In fifth grade, she missed 83 days of school; in sixth, 67. In 2010, Caela enrolled in Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School and completed a full year’s worth of English and science courses in just five months.
Best of all, her mother says, Caela is off all her medications and has not been sick since starting cyber school. Thanks to digital learning, students like Caela don’t have to give up good schooling, and having online tools that help teachers adapt means we can tailor education to every student’s needs.