Friday Institute and State Educational Technology Directors Association Release State Digital Learning Exemplars National Report

The State Educational Technology Directors Association and the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation at NC State University College of Education co-released the national report, State Digital Learning Exemplars: Highlights from states leading change through policies and funding. States are striving to support the expansion of technology tools and resources in K12 education through state policies, programs and funding in order to provide digital learning opportunities for all students. This paper highlights examples of states with policies in support of 5 key areas: innovative funding streams and policy, digital content, human capacity, network infrastructure and data management and privacy. While there has been progress toward digital learning nationwide, several states have emerged as leaders in embracing digital learning via state policies and practices in all five areas mentioned above: Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, and Utah. This report also highlights other states with significant progress in at least one of the specific five areas. 

Some critical areas for consideration that emerged include:

  • State Investment in funding and policy: States leading in digital learning have stable funding streams which sustainably fund digital learning statewide. However, many also have other, more flexible streams of money available to districts ready for innovation. These more flexible funds often provide policy flexibility to support the innovation.
  • Digital Content: Leaders in digital content have allowed for flexibility in terms of what “content” means. Policies permit districts to purchase various types of digital content and have in place high-quality, vetted repositories to share OER and other digital content with all teachers. Digital learning has evolved to include more dynamic resources that allow students to both consume material and to produce.
  • Development of Human Capacity: Professional learning for leaders at the state, district, school, and classroom level is imperative for the transition to digital-age learning. States who are successfully building capacity are doing so through innovative programs that establish partnerships and build on local expertise. Further, these leaders are building buy-in by creating a shared vision which drives all learning.
  • Systemic Approach to Networks and Infrastructure: Network infrastructure is necessary but not sufficient to digital learning. State leaders must think strategically about how to maximize resources to provide equitable access to devices and to ensure adequate infrastructure for digital learning. They must also plan to ensure that the technology supports excellent teaching practices.
  • Student Data and Privacy: Some critical areas for consideration that emerge include: • State Investment in funding and policy: States leading in digital learning have stable funding streams which sustainably fund digital learning statewide. However, many also have other, more flexible streams of money available to districts ready for innovation. These more flexible funds often provide policy flexibility to support the innovation.

Leadership at the state level is paramount. Without strong leaders crafting a vision, which includes all five focus areas described in this report, statewide progress toward digital learning is difficult. As policymakers consider investments in technological tools and resources, they should also consider their broader vision for digital learning for their students.

“In Indiana, we are focused on all students graduating both college and career ready,” stated Glenda Ritz, Superintendent of Public Instruction. “At the state level, that means empowering our teachers and students with the resources, skills and support needed for their success in this digital age.” Ritz continued. “With innovative policies, professional learning opportunities, dedicated funding sources, and an emphasis on collaboration we are seeing true classroom transformation in the Hoosier state. This paper provides collaborative expertise and shared state examples that will benefit educators throughout the state.”

“This report will be of great value to policymakers and educators as they seek to support the changes in schooling needed to prepare today’s students to be successful in the global, digital, interconnected, rapidly changing world. The Friday Institute is pleased to have contributed to preparing this report,” shared Glenn Kleinman, Executive Director, Friday Institute for Educational Innovation, NC State’s College of Education.

“Alabama is honored to be featured in SETDA’s Digital Learning Exemplars paper as helping to lead the way in digital transformation due to work already underway,” stated Dr. Tommy Bice, Alabama’s State Superintendent of Education. “Starting with our students as the focus for all teaching, leading, and learning improvements, the Alabama State Department of Education’s (ALSDE), Office of Educational Technology, is leading the charge with Alabama’s Digital Transform 2020 Plan to guide legislation, policies, funding, infrastructure, and professional development.”

“SETDA is pleased to have collaborated with the Friday Institute to develop this national report. The report will be an asset to educators nationally, the exemplar states have set a high standards and provide comprehensive approaches for other states to consider as they move forward,” said Lan Neugent, Interim Executive Director, SETDA.

Visit SETDA at http://www.setda.org/

Visit the Friday Institute at http://www.fi.ncsu.edu/

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