Prove It: Ensuring Efficacy in Digital Learning, Part Two

Guest post by Eric Sheninger

In my last post, we explored the importance of demonstrating efficacy to build support for, and ensure the success of, your school’s digital transformation. The Rigor/Relevance Framework offers a strong overall framework to reinforce pedagogical foundations while also moving practice from isolated pockets of excellence to systemic elements that are scaled throughout the learning culture. With that context in place, the next challenge is putting in place the right structures and supports to ensure success.

Below are five key areas (essential questions, research, practicality, evidence/accountability, reflection) that can put your classroom, school, district, or organization on a path to digital efficacy. 


Essential Questions

Questions provide context for where we want to go, how we’ll get there, and whether success is achieved. Having more questions than answers is a natural part of the initial change process. Over time, however, concrete answers can illustrate that efficacy in digital learning has been achieved in some form or another. Consider how you might respond to the questions below:

  • What evidence do we have to demonstrate the impact of technology on school culture?
  • How are we making learning relevant for our students?
  • How do we implement and support rigorous and relevant learning tasks that help students become future ready?
  • What is required to create spaces that model real-world environments and learning opportunities?
  • What observable evidence can be used to measure the effect technology is having on student learning and achievement?
  • How can targeted feedback be provided to our teachers and students, so that technology can enhance learning?

Research

Research is prevalent in education for a reason. It provides us all with a baseline as to what has been found to really work when it comes to student learning. Now, there is good research and bad. I get that. It is up to us as educators to sift through and then align the best and most practical studies out there to support the need to transform learning in the digital age. We can look to the past in order to inform current practice. For example, so many of us are proponents of student ownership, project-based, and collaborative learning. Not only does digital support and enhance all of these, but research from Dewey, Vygotsky, Piaget, Papert, Bloom, and many others provides validation. (See the image and learn more about authorship learning on Hybrid Pedagogy.)

One of the main reasons Tom Murray and I wrote Learning Transformed was to provide a sound research base that supports digital learning and the embracement of innovative practices. The research of Linda Darling-Hammond found that technology can have the most impact on our at-risk learners when it is used to support interactive learning, explore and create rather than to “drill and kill,” and constitutes the right blend of teachers and technology. This is just one of more than 100 studies we highlight. Then there is the comprehensive analysis by John Hattie on effect size—a listing of the most effective instructional strategies that improve student-learning outcomes all of which can be applied to digital learning. If efficacy is the goal, embracing a scholarly mindset to inform and influence our work, not drive it, is critical.

Practicality

All of what we do should align to the demands, and at times constraints, of the job. This includes preparing students for success on standardized tests. If it’s not practical, the drive to implement new ideas and practices wanes or never materializes. The creation of rigorous digital performance tasks that are aligned to standards and the scope and sequence found in the curriculum is just good practice. All good performance tasks include some form of assessment, either formative or summative, which provides the learner and educator with valuable information on standard and outcome attainment. Again, this is just part of the job.

Evidence and Accountability

As many of you know, I do not shy away from openly discussing how important this area is. Evidence and accountability are a part of every profession and quite frankly we need more of both in education to not only show efficacy in our work but also to scale needed change. Not everything has to or can be, measured. However, focusing on a return on instruction allows everyone to incorporate multiple measures, both qualitative and quantitative, to determine if improvement is in fact occurring.

Reflection

When all is said and done, the most important thing we can do is constantly reflect on our practice. In terms of efficacy in digital learning consider these reflective questions from your particular lens:

  • Did my students learn?
  • How do I know if my students learned?
  • How do others know if my students learned?
  • What can be done to improve?
  • What point of view have I not considered?

Amazing things are happening in education, whether it be through digital learning or the implementation of innovative ideas. We must always push ourselves to be better and strive for continuous improvement. The more we all push each other on the topic of efficacy, our collective goals we have for education, learning, and leadership can be achieved.

What other structures and supports help ensure digital efficacy in your school?

Eric Sheninger is a senior fellow and thought leader on digital leadership with the International Center for Leadership in Education (ICLE). Prior to this he was the award-winning principal at New Milford High School in New Jersey. He was a 2012 Digital Principal of the Year and has authored six books, including the best-seller Digital Leadership. Follow him on Twitter @E_Sheninger or visit ericsheninger.com.

1 Comment

  • I love the lens of efficacy in all our work, and think there is room for agency. I agree with all of the potential driving questions, and wonder if questions that also focus on establishing a positive culture or happiness agency can maximize ROI.

    For example: How have we provided opportunities through technology to empower our school community toward developing a growth mindset or overall positive well-being.

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