Digital Learning Beyond School

Lucy FriedmanToday is Digital Learning Day, a great moment to reflect on the potential of informal educators who operate expanded learning time schools and after-school and summer programs to bring digital learning to kids with the fewest advantages.

Technology is dramatically changing the way young people learn, especially when they’re learning on their own. Kids with the financial means are online every day—both in school and at home—living the hopeful motto that PBSKids Lab stamps on its website: “Every new technology is an opportunity for learning.”

But the digital divide is real. In this age of digital learning, fewer than 1 in 10 low-income families have a mobile reading device at home. And many of the organizations that work with kids outside of the traditional school day—and which overwhelmingly work with kids with great educational and economic needs—are still on the sidelines, interested but lacking infrastructure, tools or staffing.

With digital learning, we have a chance to ensure that the least advantaged kids are not left behind once again. Thanks to support from the Motorola Mobility Foundation and hosting by Google, we brought together educa­tion and technology leaders at a public event last summer to explore partner­ships that leverage technology to give all kids access to learning anywhere at any time. That meeting informed the principles, case studies, and practice and policy recommendations we included in our new white paper on technology-enabled learning in out-of-school time, which we are releasing today.

This work has taught us that the smart use of technology can help schools and their community partners overcome learn­ing and opportunity gaps among students, in part by embracing the passion they bring to exploring and creating through digital media. With the benefit of tech­nology, community organizations have the potential to help schools transform the educational landscape by connecting schools, families, youth-serving organiza­tions, museums and libraries in ways that transcend physical boundaries.

As we rally around digital learning today, let’s not forget the community organizations and educators who work with kids beyond traditional school hours. Some already are on the cutting edge of digital learning—in our white paper and video below we profile four organizations that are maximizing the potential of learning technologies in New York City: MOUSE, Global Kids, Thurgood Marshall Academy for Leadership and Social Change and Institute of Play. Let’s make sure that all educators—and the kids they teach—have the tools, infrastructure and content to do the same.