Sunday, April 17, 2011

Digital Learning Resources, Our Skills and Our Students

This week I drew out key points from several articles regarding digital/online learning resources and the challenges we face when applying these resources in the interest of our students.

The articles from the Chronicle of Higher Education (Howard, 2009; Miller, 2010; Young, 2009) describe how developers are incorporating more advanced features into their resources to (1) adapt their material to the needs of their target audiences, (2) take advantage of the advances in technology and (3) help their companies gain revenue. After reading the articles I concluded that, to be able to succeed in the marketplace, providers of digital learning resources will need to offer the learner the following features.
  • Ability to obtain guidance about the use of the resource
  • Flexibility in accessing and using the material
  • Ability to customize the resource to meet the learner’s individual needs
  • Assessments made available to the learner, so that he/she can determine progress and decide where they need to spend more effort
  • Ability to search on user-defined terms
  • Material made available through a variety of media (e.g., text, video, audio, images, etc.)
  • The learner can create and remix content within the resource
  • Collaboration among learners is enabled, including the spaces like discussion forums and wikis
  • Ability to evaluate the resource and rate it for the benefit of others
  • Access to technical support
More advanced features in digital learning resources add to the challenges we face as educators. Not only must we become skilled in the use of these resources and their features, but we must also understand how to effectively incorporate the resources into our learning offerings. Davis, Fuller, Jackson, Pittman, & Sweet (2007) address these issues in their report by pointing out that teachers are not receiving adequate training in technology and then providing recommendations in this area. Their recommendations include more professional development in the use of technology, training teachers before they enter the classroom and increasing the awareness of administrators and curriculum developers regarding the integration of technology in education.

Having more professional development only addresses one our challenges. Educators must also adapt to a change in our role from being an instructor to working in a situation where “the teacher manages the process of how students use the information” (Dr. Milton Chen, as quoted by Davis, et al.). I would add that the teacher must also turn into a facilitator, guide, advisor, driver and director when it comes to the use of digital resources and technology by his/her students. The art then becomes knowing when to play which role; a skill acquired through plenty of experience and trial-and-error (my opinion).

Another good point made by Davis, et al., is that educators must view the students as a stakeholder in the learning process (p. 9). I would take this statement further. I believe we must see our students as our clients, and that our actions must revolve around meeting our clients’ learning objectives, needs and wants. Even though Taborn (2008) focuses his article on race, from this reading I derived a recommendation that I could be use with my clients (students):
We must take time to understand our students' cultural/racial/ethnic backgrounds and how they prefer to access and use information. This knowledge should assist us in making better decisions when applying digital/online educational resources in a way that (1) helps our students learn, (2) improves their technology-related skills and (2) gives them a better chance to succeed in an increasingly complex global economy.


Davis, T., Fuller, M., Jackson, S., Pittman, J., & Sweet, J. (2007). A National Consideration of Digital Equity. Washington, D.C.: International Society for Technology in Education. Retrieved on April 8, 2011 from

Howard, J. (2009). The All-Digital Library? Not Quite Yet. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved on April 7, 2011 from

Miller, M. (2010). New Web Site Lists Free Online Textbooks. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved on April 7, 2011 from

Miller, M. (2010). California Law Encourages Digital Textbooks by 2020. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved on April 7, 2011 from

Taborn, T. (2008). Separating Race from Technology: Finding Tomorrow’s IT Progress in the Past. Learning Race and Ethnicity: Youth and Digital Media. Edited by Anna Everett. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Media and Learning. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2008. 39–60. Retrieved on April 8, 2011 from

Young, J. (2009). New E-Textbooks Do More Than Inform: They’ll Even Grade You. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved on April 7, 2011 from

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