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The future of learning is digital

The text "Digital Learning Day" surrounded by illustrations of hands and symbols of technology

With the rise of online learning and digital tools, education has dramatically changed over the years — requiring teachers and students alike to learn new digital skills. On February 22, thousands of educators around the world are celebrating the use of technology in the classroom by participating in Digital Learning Day. Whether in school or at home, we’ve seen technology can help provide access, increase engagement and help educators and students open up new possibilities for learning, especially over the last few years.

In honor of Digital Learning Day, Grow with Google’s Applied Digital Skills program has curated a collection of our most popular digital lessons, which includes everything from how to make art using spreadsheets to creating a presentation. Applied Digital Skills is Google’s free, online, video-based curriculum that teaches learners of all ages the practical technology skills needed to be successful in school, work and beyond. To date, this curriculum has helped more than three million students learn digital skills and has helped thousands of educators teach them in a fun and engaging way.

Matt Winters, a Senior Technical Trainer at the Utah Education Network and co-lead for Google Educator Group Utah, has incorporated Applied Digital Skills lessons in his community by training educators across the state of Utah to help them get more comfortable with technology. I met with him virtually to talk about his experience integrating technology and digital tools to create more personal learning experiences in the classroom.

What does digital learning mean to you?

In Utah, we are promoting several activities to get teachers and students involved in Digital Learning Day. And it isn’t about celebrating just one day or one week: This is a skillset that every teacher and student needs on a daily basis. Technology is a tool, and with any tool we need to know how to use it.

Technology is a tool, and with any tool we need to know how to use it.

In your opinion, how can Applied Digital Skills be used in the classroom to promote digital learning?

We as teachers are asked to do so much, especially since the pandemic. Whether it is planning curriculum, taking attendance or being experts in social-emotional learning, on top of all that we are asked to be technology experts. Teachers just don’t have time for all of it. Applied Digital Skills gives teachers the latitude to teach the technology skills that they want students to learn, without ever having to know the technology skills themselves. Although they can take the lessons too!

I also love the open-source nature of Applied Digital Skills. The lessons can easily be adapted to not just your content area, but also the digital tool you would like to use. One of my favorite lessons is Create a Comic Strip with Google Drawings. It’s a big hit with students and was a no-brainer given my personal love for graphic novels. The curriculum encourages teachers to hand off the lessons to the students to let them easily learn the technical skills needed. This allows the teacher to step out of the “sage on the stage” role and switch into coach mode. And they are able to be the content experts that they are and focus their attention on students who need additional support.

What advice would you give to teachers who are skeptical of bringing technology into the classroom?

My biggest suggestion to teachers is to simplify what you are doing with technology in the classroom. Less is more. Get comfortable with a few tech tools first. Start small. It doesn’t have to be a huge overhaul of your curriculum. If you are going from using very little or zero technology, start with very little increments to grow your confidence. That is a very easy win as you will continue to grow your skills over time.

We have to remind ourselves that some things that seem scary to us teachers aren’t actually that scary. For example, I was initially intimidated by some of the coding lessons but I realized how comfortable and easy it was to learn to code with Google Apps Script. By using lessons like Create a Guide to an Area, I was able to get comfortable with coding and show my students that this is much less daunting than it seems. No matter where you are at in your journey with digital skills, all you need to do is start today. Just remember to take it one step at a time.

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