Digital Learning Perspectives

Tue, Feb 3, 2015

Distance Learning, Uncategorized

By Dr. Tammy Lynn Woody
Interim Dean, School of Education at American Public University

A colleague recently brought it to my attention that there is a national “digital learning day” in March. Intrigued, I visited the website to learn more about this event and how it came into existence. As the interim Dean of the APU School of Education, I’m always on the lookout for free resources that could be used by our faculty and candidates as they prepare to work with K-12 students. I also keep in mind that we have an institutional goal to increase digital literacy and citizenship among our college students. In perusing the links, a few things struck me about digital learning and in the broader scheme of things, lifelong learning. First, I was particularly impressed with the videos and the focus on student outcomes and achievement, and the lack of complaints about how hard it is to implement new technology. Secondly, I loved the emphasis on becoming creators instead of consumers in regard to digital learning. Lastly, I was inspired to see such enthusiasm and commitment to the goal of helping all students reach their potential through a variety of tools and strategies.

After spending some time on the website, I had a few epiphanies both professionally and personally about the importance of continuous improvement by whatever means available to us. Often, it is easier to lament the challenges we face when we are growing and evolving instead of celebrating the victories. I was thinking more about this on the drive home from a Crossfit session. As a newbie to Crossfit, I’ve certainly had my boundaries (both physically and mentally) stretched. My first emotion is often frustration when I don’t immediately master a move or exercise. I realize that it’s easy to lose sight of my successes in my haste to progress. There is a professional parallel to my personal health quest as we are in the midst of transitions and the implementation of new technologies in the School of Education which will ultimately help us serve our students more efficiently.

It’s almost amusing to discover that I’m just as annoyed when thwarted at executing the perfect power clean as I am when I don’t understand how to use a manager review queue for our brand new automated forms system! Though they’re totally different activities, I’m equally insecure and intimidated with both; until I get over myself, pushing through the uncomfortable place. Repeatedly, I find that a positive focus on the bigger picture and improved outcomes are sometimes overshadowed by the day-to-day incremental advances that take our time and energy. In general, I feel that I am a pretty resilient and positive person, but I find that I have to consciously cultivate those qualities in all interactions lest I slip into negativity. Plus, there is the knowledge that in our pursuit of personal and professional goals, it feels like there’s no room for failure or growing pains. Yet I would assert that perhaps we gain the most when the journey is arduous.

I am delighted about the plethora of changes that have occurred in our instructional practices (e.g., reflective blogging, leveraging social media platforms for learning, BYOD; etc.) and habits of mind as educators in the last 20 years. I think this is why the importance of digital learning and digital literacy resonate with me. Yes, it is expensive, time-consuming, and uncomfortable to adopt new tools and technologies that transform our schools and our society. Change is hard. One of the most consistent themes I hear as a professional educator is how much change can challenge our perception of control. However, I’ve always been of the opinion that when we embrace change, we minimize our fear of it. I see similar responses in the field of education. New and different ways of teaching and learning seem to crop up all over the globe. Digital learning is one example of this movement. Personally, I feel that this paradigm shift has been a long time coming; there is no better time than the present to embrace and advocate for changes that ensure increased equity, improved effectiveness and productivity, and stimulate student centered learning.

I hope to champion this movement in the APU School of Education and showcase the innovation we are demonstrating in our work of creating technologically competent, digitally literate educators for our nation’s schools. We would love to hear from those of you in the field or who are in the process of becoming educators. How are you incorporating digital learning into your lives and instructional settings?

About the Author

Dr. Tammy Lynn Woody is the Interim Dean of the School of Education at American Public University. She has been with APU for more than six years and has functioned in a variety of roles including: certification officer, field experience coordinator, school counseling program director, and school wide director. Prior to joining the APU team, she served in numerous capacities in PK-12 education including: lead preschool teacher, substitute teacher, and professional school counselor. Her doctorate in curriculum & instruction was completed through West Virginia University while she was a member of the Eastern Panhandle doctoral cohort. She currently holds professional school counselor certification in both West Virginia and Virginia and serves on numerous regional educational boards and committees.


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