Digital-Age Learning
Given the realities of globalization, knowledge work, and accelerating societal change, it's obvious that what students learn—as well as how and when they learn—is changing.
Over the last decade, there were tremendous advances in the science of learning, made possible by the convergence of research in the cognitive sciences, neuroscience, human development, and technology. As a result, we know more today about how people think and learn (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 1999).
For starters, the research clearly shows that students learn more when they are engaged in meaningful, relevant, and intellectually stimulating work (Newmann, Bryk, & Nagaoka, 2001). While all learning is deeply personal, the frequency and relevance of such moments increase when technology enables us to tap outside experts; visualize and analyze data; link to real-world contexts; and take advantage of opportunities for feedback, reflection, and analysis (Bransford et al., 1999).
Technology influences learning in three significant ways. A synthesis of recent research and national skill sets shows that technology can be a driver of change, a bridge to academic excellence, and a platform for informed decision making and accountability:
1. A Driver for Change: The 21st Century Skills
Technology has catapulted us into a knowledge-based, global society. It is clear that success in this society will require significantly different skills than in the past (CEO Forum, 2001; International ICT Literacy Panel, 2002). However, policymakers and educators have not yet clearly defined what it means to be "educated" in a Digital Age. The irony of a call for 21st century skills in this era of high-stakes testing based on conventional metrics is not lost on teachers. To fully realize the educational opportunities that 21st century skills can bring to students, education leaders must formally incorporate them into the mainstream of school curriculum, instruction, and assessment.
2. A Bridge to High Academic Achievement
Technology serves as a bridge to more engaged, relevant, meaningful, and personalized learning—all of which can lead to higher academic achievement. Research indicates that when technology is used appropriately, children learn more, even as measured by conventional tests (Newmann et al., 2001; Wenglinsky, 1998). It is important to demonstrate this research link to teachers, thereby encouraging them to incorporate technology into the mainstream of student learning.
3. A Platform for Informed Decision Making and Accountability
Technology provides a platform for more informed decision making using timely, meaningful data to shape learning opportunities. This situation translates into more personalized learning based on continuous feedback available to students, teachers, and parents. The challenge lies in building such accountability systems on the foundation of the right indicators—indicators that lead to high academic standards and 21st century skills. Only this foundation will enable true Digital Age readiness.
Educators have no choice. The times require that schools change or become obsolete. Just as doctors must stay abreast of the latest medical research and lawyers must keep up with case law, educators must stay current with practices that optimize student learning. While this practice may be happening in some schools and districts, all of our schools need to become organizations that formally and systematically use research results to drive systemwide change. This approach is particularly important in the current era of high-stakes assessment.
Such a transition will require teachers and administrators themselves to become knowledge workers with 21st century skill sets. School leaders need to drive change, taking on new, collaborative roles and using inventive thinking to integrate the emerging "science of learning" into their school systems. All students should have the opportunity to attend dynamic, high-quality schools designed to meet the challenges of the Digital Age. The implications for pedagogy, teacher and student roles, curriculum, assessment, infrastructure, and the community are significant. In short, the 21st century skills should form a major part of the foundation of improvement processes in schools.
The 21st century skills identified in this publication are meant to be considered in the context of academic content and standards-based reform. Examples of actual classroom practices follow the briefing pages describing each of the skills. These classrooms exemplify the ways in which 21st century skills can breathe new life into academic content, leveraging technology in ways that powerfully advance learning by strengthening student engagement in challenging, authentic, and intellectual work.
The research indicates that all children—regardless of age, gender, socioeconomic status, and academic status—can excel when immersed in such meaningful, challenging work (Newmann et al., 2001).

Reading: Digital-Age Learning

Please read the question below and enter a response or comment on any aspect of the reading that you find interesting or questionable.

Question: Comment on the following statement from the reading from your own observations when you have integrated eLearning in an aspect of your classroom programme of learning. ‘Research indicates that when technology is used appropriately, children learn more, even as measured by conventional test.’