A New Challenge as More Schools Go Online: Can Educators Expand Digital Learning to Every Classroom and Home?

School systems – even the most forward thinking – might have a handful of innovative classrooms to show off. But few can show that every classroom is using digital tools to improve students’ learning.

It’s a puzzle for school officials who are gathering this week in Washington, D.C., at the annual conference of the Consortium for School Networking, widely known by its acronym, CoSN. Early Monday morning, before the event began, I caught up with CoSN’s CEO Keith R. Krueger, who told me about it.

One of the biggest challenges, Krueger said, is this: “How do we move from little islands of innovation to systems of innovation?”

For the first time in several years, school leaders surveyed by CoSN no longer ranked preparing for computer-based tests as one of the top three technology concerns facing school systems, according to poll results released Monday by CoSN. School leaders say the biggest challenges are: modern Internet connections, wireless Internet systems and use of mobile digital devices.

The majority of schools are now online, and federal money pledged in December 2014 is expected to pay for system upgrades that give schools speedy, modern connections. Also, just last week, the Federal Communications Commission approved a change to an existing federal program, called Lifeline, so that low-income adults can apply to receive a free Internet connection at home – which could help their children get online, too.

But there’s more to do. What’s next?

Helping students get Internet access after school remains a big issue – even after last week’s infusion of support from the FCC. And parents and schools continue to deal with privacy, which remains an area of high concern in places that are trying to use digital tools, and personal data, to create bespoke lessons for students.

To help improve work on privacy, CoSN and a variety of partner organizations are releasing a new seal of approval (sort of like the universally-known Good Housekeeping Seal) for schools, on Tuesday. The program, called the Trusted Learning Environment, serves school systems and parents, Krueger said. For schools, the 40-point checklist provides guidance in so-called best practices. For parents, it’s a quick way to verify that whether a child’s school has done some work to protect privacy.

[Cross-posted at The Hechinger Report]

Nichole Dobo

Nichole Dobo writes about blended learning. Most of her 10-year career as a reporter has focused on education. She has also covered stories about government, courts, business and religion. She was a staff writer at The News Journal in Wilmington, Del., The York Daily Record/Sunday News in York, Pa., The Times-Tribune in Scranton, Pa. and The Citizens' Voice in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. and has been published in The Atlantic's online edition. She won first prize and best of show for education writing in 2011 from the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association. She earned a B.A. in journalism at the Pennsylvania State University.