March 17, 2016

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Digital education critical to enhancing Hawaii’s global status

By
Caroline Joiner
Honolulu Star Advertiser

Hawaii is now considering simple, yet significant legislation that will help make our classrooms true gateways to 21st century learning.  The legislation would ensure that schools have the ability to purchase digital textbooks and other digital content and tools alongside their traditional counterparts, and would set aside nearly $13 million so that digital materials could be purchased.  This would be a giant leap forward for Hawaii’s students, and would put a treasure trove of digital resources at their fingertips.

In a global, interconnected, and technology-driven economy, education and workforce development are more critical than ever.  Hawaii’s ability to compete and drive growth will rely on our ability to maintain and grow a strong pipeline of talent with problem-solving, communication, collaboration, and computer literacy skills.

Technology companies have long collaborated with educators, policymakers, and other stakeholders to promote the adoption of digital learning resources and technology integration because we believe it can fundamentally transform education, improve student outcomes, and enable college and career readiness. 

The Hawaii State Legislature is currently considering House Bill 2267 and Senate Bill 2606, bills that would make critical investments to enable the students of Hawaii to realize the promise of digital education.

Why is this so important?  Every day, teachers go into classrooms with dozens of students who learn in different ways and at different paces.  They struggle to match each student with the content and instructional approach to ensure each student’s personal engagement and success.  It’s a true testament to the skill and commitment of our teachers that they do it so well, and underscores how critical it is that we equip our teachers with the digital content and technology tools that will enable them to teach all students most effectively.

At the most basic level, digital content and tools can be regularly updated, revised and improved at any time.  Technology-enabled tools and resources – like digitized books with embedded dictionaries and videos, virtual field trips, and game-based multimedia simulation and animation – can be used to make complex concepts more visual and accessible and give students multiple ways and chances to understand and master content.  Digital learning also powers collaboration between educators, empowering instructors to create courses using the best content available.  Ultimately, compelling digital content and tools engage students, fuel exploration, and motivate learning.  These are the keys to success in in the innovation economy.

Technology can also help make classroom learning more student-centered and personalized, putting the right information, tools, and resources in a teacher’s hands, tailored to students' individual needs.  It allows teachers to uniquely connect with each learner and provides quick feedback to teachers on where students are struggling, allowing them to provide additional instruction and dynamically guide and accelerate learning.  It also helps students better master material, pace their learning, review material, and be assessed and provided feedback before moving to another lesson.

House Bill 2267 and Senate Bill 2606 empower local educators and teachers to develop, select, and utilize the best tools for the classroom and the entire scholastic experience.  They also enable our schools to more fully use digital learning tools and technology to help transform education, improve student outcomes, and ensure our kids can compete and succeed in the 21st century workplace. 

The bottom line is this: at a time when our nation faces a major skills gap, we should be doing everything we can to transform our classrooms, open the door to new ways of learning, and ensure that students have a rich array of digital materials at their fingertips.  It is surprising that in 2016, many students are using materials similar to those used by students in 1966.  It’s time that we open the door to digital content and tools and take a critical, needed to step to improve education in Hawaii.

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