Debunking the Dialogue About Digital Learning

I am not an expert. I am not a “real” teacher (yet). I admit that I have lived a relatively charmed life as an Education student.

Sure, I’ve fought some battles but I am no way a veteran. I have not spent years in the trenches. I’ve spent summers teaching first-graders how to read. I’ve had amazing student teaching experiences in middle and high school English classrooms. I’ve worked at the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth summer camp, where being exceptional is normal and being a nerd is cool. The opportunities have presented challenges and provided plentiful learning opportunities, but they do not mimic the day-to-day lifestyle of a teacher.

What am I? A student. A lifelong learner. A technology enthusiast. I’m a child of the early 90s.

I’ve been playing video games since I was a kid, but it wasn’t until late high school that technology really became a part of my everyday life. These days when I research a digital tool or device, that childlike fascination and amazement just comes rushing right back. Except that now that fascination comes with some hard thinking.

As a future teacher, my biggest challenge is understanding how 21st century students learn and whether or not all these cool technologies actually help. And though I am not currently a parent, I one day hope to be, and I want to make sure I understand how technology will affect my future child’s education. As an undergraduate student, I learned a ton about how students learn on their own, in the classroom, and in the world. But the knowledge I gained over the course of those four years stirred up a few questions:

  • Can technology help personalize learning for students?
  • What apps and tools are available (at little to no cost) to help students learn?
  • Has technology changed how people learn and read?
  • What skills are necessary for 21st century students to survive in the physical and digital world?
  • Do the cognitive processes involved with reading and learning change at all when people are online or reading an e-book?

Through courses, student teaching, independent studies with kind professors who tolerated my constant queries, and a semester-long honors research study project, I had many opportunities to explore these questions and finally begin to scratch at the surface of understanding. Now, with a portion of my master’s degree completely dedicated to learning about how people learn and read with technologies — and working here at LearningWorks for Kids — I feel like I’m diving head first into the experiences that will give me the answers I seek.

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This post is the first in a series I’m dubbing “Debunking the Dialogue about Digital Learning.” I am a firm believer in sharing knowledge, resources, ideas, and research. Whether you’re a parent, a teacher, a clinician, or even a student, I ask you to join me on this journey. I encourage you to share your comments and ask questions (that’s how we all learn!). Then I’ll do the time-consuming work of researching and reading, and share the results and my analysis. In doing so, I hope we can work together to create our own dialogue focused on the positive aspects of learning and reading online or digitally.

Will you join me?


Alexis (Alex) Carlson joined the LearningWorks for Kids team in September. Alex is currently a graduate student at the University of Rhode Island, where she is pursuing a master’s degree in Education with a Graduate Certificate in Digital Literacy. When she’s not wearing her teacher hat in the LearningWorks for Kids office or making app review videos for the site, she is likely diving into homework. Alex seeks to make learning personal and find exciting ways apps and games can help kids learn.


Featured image: Flickr user lupalz

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One thought on “Debunking the Dialogue About Digital Learning

  1. Alex Carlson, please elaborate on the effectiveness of the Self-Organized-Learning-Environments (SOLE) championed by Dr Sugata Mitra. A recent news broadcast featured his first School-in-the-Cloud Learning Lab at a NY city elementary school. Please comment on the role of the skilled teacher facilitating advanced thought processes when students are using technology to explore their questions. As a parent grateful for the teachers who have sparked my son’s critical thinking skills via human interaction, I am concerned that the perception given by the broadcast was that providing a curious group of students access to the internet and engaging educational games was all that was needed for educational success. Thank you.

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