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The Classroom of Tomorrow: Story Ideas on Digital Learning

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Digital education is here, so what do we do with it? Experts with varying levels of faith that digital education platforms will help students improve academically sat on a panel discussion in Washington, D.C. last week, weighing in with answers to that question.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the themes and issues debated:

  • One skeptic says too much of digital learning is based on social media platforms. Since those online tools “have intense social meaning for [students],” it’s far from clear social media sites can be rejiggered into academic learning materials without alienating the students.
  • Integrating computers into the instructional period has been a slow process. One in every three students has a school computer; fewer than one million K-12 pupils have taken a class online.
  • Blended learning, in which teachers take on more students but have computer programs that drill students on concepts and problem sets, can lead to fewer teachers. Winnowing the teacher corps to only the top educators can save money while leading to higher teacher salaries, one analyst said.
  • Online classrooms cost nearly half as much as traditional brick and mortar classes. Blended learning model costs are harder to gauge.

Questions to consider:

  • Do online courses need more regulation or standardized curricula to make sure states are not giving money to operators that don’t improve student scores?
  • What role do unions play in the digital learning space? If online classrooms are operated by non-state groups, will limits on unionization be a sticking point?
  • What are the prospects of state agencies designing and leading online learning classes?