Students' use of technology is transforming classrooms across the country.
President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan last year issued what has become known as the "digital mandate," challenging schools to adopt digital technology by 2017.
While the first year of the mandate saw educators adopting digital solutions, there are still thousands of schools across the country, which have yet to make the shift. Washington has provided compelling arguments for digital learning, but the true impetus to accelerate the digital transition should be those who are impacted most - students.
Nationwide, the ways students learn are undergoing a fundamental transformation fueled by a generation of children who use digital media to learn everything from beginning phonics to biophysics. Students no longer want to look at a static drawing of a strand of DNA when they can virtually explore the inside of an interactive digital rendering of DNA to decode its scientific mysteries. Instead of forcing them to adapt to old, singularly focused methods, schools must adapt to the multiple ways in which today's students want and need to learn.
If you've recently stepped inside one of the nation's more innovative K-12 classrooms, it probably appeared more reminiscent of a Google lab than a traditional classroom. Outdated textbooks have been replaced by computer tablets; chalkboards swapped for digital smart boards; and VCRs exchanged for projection monitors powered by computers.
These digital changes have engendered a culture of learning that is significantly different from past generations. Today, teachers are not the sole voice heard in the learning environment. Instead students participate in their own learning, selecting content based on their interests and using individualized feedback mechanisms to help guide their instruction.
The results of this evolution have been impressive, not just at wealthy private institutions and well-funded public schools, but in districts where both school boards and parents alike struggle to make ends meet:
? In the Mooresville (N.C.) Graded School District, students increased their performance on state exams by 13 percent during their first three years of adopting digital resources, while maintaining one of the lowest per-student costs in the state.
? In the Indianapolis Public Schools system - in which 85 percent of students are enrolled in subsidized lunch programs - schools that converted to digital learning increased state standardized test passing rates by 27 percent than those schools that did not.
? In Miami-Dade County Public Schools, one of the poorest districts in the country and a model for aggressive digital adoption, students achieved a 7 percent increase in their science Comprehensive Assessment Test exams, the district reduced its number of "F-rated" schools from 13 to zero and more than 70 percent of the county's schools are now receiving "A" grades.
This kind of continued improvement will require every constituent in the educational community - from school boards and parents, to administrators and teachers - to support the up-front investment, the long-term commitment, and the cultural changes required to make the digital vision a practical reality.
But most importantly, this change requires a first step of acknowledging that students are entitled to an education that fits the way they interact with today's world.