Last week, Michael Robbins, Senior Advisor for Nonprofit Partnerships at the U.S. Department of Education, wrote a thought-provoking post on the Department’s blog titled Community Partnerships for the Digital Learning Revolution. In it, Robbins outlined four key areas of collaboration that community organizations can undertake to advance the digital learning movement:
- Expanding access and digital literacy;
- Bridging between schools, families, and communities;
- Service and volunteering in education; and
- Creating new avenues for anytime-anywhere learning.
As Digital Learning Day approaches, I am taken back a couple of years to when I was working on the launch of the 2020 Forecast: Creating the Future of Learning. I was still very new to the K-12 space; up until then I had worked in higher education, and was enamored with all the super-cool stuff contained in the forecast, especially around anytime, anywhere learning. One day, someone reminded me that while the 2020 Forecast might articulate some “super cool” things about learning being unhitched from traditional schools, there was also a good chance that this could lead to a widened achievement gap – specifically because of a lack of access to the proper edtech tools for underserved students. Needless to say, I hadn’t thought about this and was fairly disheartened as I wrapped my brain around the idea.
As I read Robbins’ post, my optimism about anytime, anywhere learning got a boost. Whether it’s Connect2Compete working “to expand low-cost internet, computers, and digital literacy instruction to low-income families,” or HIVE Learning Networks using, “new technologies and media to better connect students to their interests, aspirations, communities, and careers,” the partnerships he described made the 2020 Forecast super-cool again.
It is becoming increasingly clear that complex social issues, like education, cannot be improved by one sector alone. Cross sector collaboration; whether it is community or faith-based organizations, non-profits, businesses, or families; is a non-negotiable if we are going to, as Robbins says, “…ignite student curiosity and engagement in learning.”