story by Claire Miller
Assistant Professor Jennifer Darling-Aduana has spent the last five years studying digital learning and how K-12 educators can ensure that all students can participate and succeed in virtual settings.
She recently co-authored a book with Vanderbilt University’s Carolyn J. Heinrich and University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Annalee G. Good entitled, “Equity and Quality in Digital Learning: Realizing the Promise in K-12 Education,” which outlines their research findings and offers digital learning strategies and practices that schools can consider.
The first thing educators should consider when reviewing their online learning plans? Access. As school systems quickly found out at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, some students don’t have internet access at home or a device they can use to complete their assignments and participate in online sessions with their teachers and classmates.
After students’ access needs are met, Darling-Aduana and her co-authors recommend school districts review the online platforms and programs they use, gather data to see how well those digital tools work for teachers and students, and include families and community partners’ voices when choosing the right online programs to use in their schools.
“The core of our book is about relationships and working together toward continuous improvement. It’s about partnering with educators and other stakeholders, listening to their expertise and incorporating rigorous evaluation findings into action to improve students’ educational experiences,” she said. “That process, which we detail throughout the book, is exactly the process needed to continue centering student experiences and outcomes throughout the pandemic.”
The authors also encourage school leaders to provide professional development for teachers implementing online learning. If teachers are going to effectively translate their lessons into digital spaces – and ensure those lessons are culturally relevant to their students – they’ll need proper training and support.
Their research shows that students demonstrate higher levels of engagement when they have one-on-one interactions with a live teacher and participate in interactive activities adapted from in-person classroom settings.
“Many of the same principles known to guide student learning in traditional, face-to-face classrooms also apply in the digital setting,” Darling-Aduana said. “The best place to start when developing strategies to do this virtually is with the face-to-face techniques that work in the traditional classrooms – ‘hands-on’ learning, collaborative work and meaningful discussions are known to increase student engagement in both classroom and digital settings.”
Darling-Aduana and her co-authors wrote this book and created a series of digital resources in hopes that educators feel empowered to improve online learning in their own schools and communities.
“We are eager to share what we have learned together, because there’s no reason other districts have to start from the ground floor to develop equitable digital learning experiences for their students,” she said.
To learn more about the book, visit https://www.hepg.org/hep-home/books/equity-and-quality-in-digital-learning.