Down The Digital Learning Rabbit Hole – PT 3

Technology is not going away nor should it. Digital Learning is coming to states everywhere, including North Carolina. There are many pros and cons surrounding Digital Learning.

What I want to talk about is where the push for Digital Learning is coming from and how it is connected to North Carolina.  There are some key players, history and money influences that are driving legislation in our state; specifically HB660.

This is part 3, which will look at Bob Wise’s activities in North Carolina specifically. [Read part 1 and part 2. ]

Bob Wise – A North Carolina Specific Timeline

2011: Bob Wise comes to North Carolina and testifies in front of a NC General Assembly legislative research committee. His testimony is centered around Digital Learning as a support tool of Common Core and cites the Friday Institute as a key resource:

“I also want to point out that you have a fantastic resource in the William and Ida Friday Institute at North Carolina State University and its director, Glenn Kleiman. If every state had an institution like the Friday Institute, the work we are engaged in would be much, much easier.

The Friday Institute has truly led the way preparing teachers and leaders to transform the learning process in the 21st century. Now the time has come to continue this progress by spreading these practices and encouraging all school districts and all schools to put into place plans for high-quality digital learning.”

2012: Even Former Governor Perdue was a big fan – of the team of  Kleinman and Wise:

Governor Bev Perdue paired up with former West Virginia Governor, Bob Wise, to host an interactive webinar on technology and education last week.  The conference was open to the public, with participants listening in from all over the nation. The webinar was hosted by the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation through the online epic-ed community. 

“This was a great opportunity to hear from, and interact with, two state and national leaders in helping schools transition to global information age approaches for teaching and learning,” said Glenn Kleiman, moderator and Executive Director at the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation at NC State University. “Both Governors Perdue and Wise have led important initiatives to further the use of technology to enhance education.” – NCSU, 2012, Governors Bev Perdue and Bob Wise Address the Digital Transformation of Education

2013: Bob Wise knows the Friday Institute well; they’ve been partners in adventures like MOOC’s or ‘Massive Open Online Courses’.

2015: The Friday Institute is named in HB 660 as the express provider of E-Learning and Digital materials: “Whereas, the State of North Carolina has contracted with the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation to develop a statewide K‑12 Digital Learning Plan,” .

View the presentation made to the General Assembly by Friday Institute, North Carolina Digital Learning Plan. Note they intend to make a parent portal — gee, will it be like the one Powerschool has and of which no elementary parent has still has no access to after 3 years of use? Pardon my skepticism, I’ve seen this movie before.

The Friday Institute is referring to Digital Learning as “Technology Enabled Personalized Learning” or TEPL for short.

While HB 660 has not yet passed, a contract with Friday Institute was already put in place, and is dated April 23rd, 2014. The total cost listed on the contract document, which references a 2014 bill (HB 44) as justification,  is $1,999,698.05. HB 44 was passed.

So, What’s the Big Fuss?

Are all digital materials bad? No, of course not.  A certain times, it can be very useful. Overuse of anything, however, is never a good thing.

So what’s the fuss?

The fuss is lack of oversight, governance and transparency in HB 660 and in the development of these materials. The tying of digital materials to a bill to expand connectivity ensures it will get passed. This is an end run around dialogue on Digital learning; These items should be TWO separate bills.

It’s knowing the same groups who brought us Common Core are now trying to cement the standards into place using Digital materials. Who else is writing this stuff and what will it include? Consider the social issues agendas being ‘aligned‘ by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The fuss is not knowing how our kids will be tracked using these applications and materials. Digital learning depends on data, so what data are they collecting? Will this be in the child’s digital record in the Statewide Longitudinal Databases Systems?

Where is ITS on this? How will this material be safeguarded? How will it be implemented, updated, corrected or objected to?  How will these digital materials be approved?

The fuss is the assumption that all parents are fine with this transition. We’re not. Especially those of us with young children. Evidence shows that children exposed to computers and tablets at early ages are not creating the neural pathways that they should be.

Digital use of anything at young ages is creating an instant gratification generation who look at pencils and crayons as foreign objects.

scG-coleman-unqualifiedThe fuss is parents already have a hard time getting schools to show us what they are using. What happens when it’s all digital and all done at school?

The fuss is that, once again, the small collection of the unelected with large wallets seem to think they know best for all.

*This article has been updated

Related Reading:

5 questions on digital learning

House Bill 660 Transition to Personalized Digital Learning

About A.P. Dillon

A.P. Dillon is a reporter currently writing at The North State Journal. She resides in the Triangle area of North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_ Tips:
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