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Digital Learning Day Could Help Propel Colorado to Student Course Choice

It’s been a whole year since the last Digital Learning Day, and somehow I’m still 5… Go figure! There is so much going on with digital learning innovations in Colorado, but I just wanted to hone in on one of them.

In December, my Education Policy Center friends visited Denver’s Rocky Mountain Prep charter school. Because of the school’s innovative use of the blended learning rotation model, I said it “may be at the cutting edge of an important trend in Colorado.” To get a clearer picture of how learning and instruction looks different at Rocky Mountain Prep, listen to school founder James Cryan’s radio interview yesterday on the Amy Oliver Show.

Depending on Rocky Mountain Prep’s level of success, families should demand more such options to emerge in the future. For those looking to start an effective new school that combines online instructional delivery, customized student-centered learning, and traditional brick-and-mortar supervision (in Colorado or elsewhere), Digital Learning Now has just released the Blended Learning Implementation Guide.

All in all, the Guide looks very practical. Some smart people put a lot of thought and care into its creation. I commend the entire piece to would-be school creators for consideration. For the rest of us especially, there is value in reading and understanding the brief section “State Policy Matters” on page 5. It echoes the themes my Education Policy Center friends helped to develop in Colorado’s digital learning policy road map.

But the promise commemorated today gets even better than just developing individual blended learning schools. As the 2013 version of National School Choice Week slowly fades in the rear view mirror, the Innosight Institute’s Michael Horn reminds us that we need to move beyond school choice:

…Given that each student has different learning needs at different times and different passions and interests, there is likely no school, no matter how great, that can single-handedly cater to all of these needs just by using its own resources contained within the four walls of its classrooms.

But by leveraging online learning technologies and other such innovations, we can unbundle the different jobs that schools do for students to provide students with a myriad of high-quality choices to meet each child’s distinct needs.

Hear, hear! Let’s break down the boundaries, and make it easier to empower students to reach their greatest potential. Following Utah’s lead, now Louisiana has moved forward to provide students with “course choice.”

While Colorado is on the cusp of considering a school finance overhaul, would it be too much to ask to incorporate some transformational provisions enabling “course choice,” as well? There is more in-depth insight to be gleaned into how Colorado can update the state’s school finance system to support this kind of liberating change.

Anyway, we’ve just scratched the surface of what today can be about. It won’t be long before the first Wednesday of February every year is etched on our brains as Digital Learning Day! Much like most of us know the fourth Thursday in November is Thanksgiving. Ok, probably not that easy to remember.

Then what about recalling the “first Sunday after the full moon (the Paschal Full Moon) following the northern hemisphere’s vernal equinox” is Easter? That’s probably more like it. When Digital Learning Day falls on the calendar isn’t nearly as important as breaking down the policy barriers that can make it a year-round success!