By Mary Alice Ball
Senior Library Program Officer, IMLS
I was excited to attend the third annual Digital Learning Day organized by the Alliance for Excellent Education and held at the Library of Congress on the 18th anniversary of the E-rate program. Although the audience was primarily teachers, libraries were mentioned frequently. Former West Virginia Governor Bob Wise, who is the President of the Alliance, acted as host for the outstanding program of speakers and panelists.
After a welcome by Dr. James Billington, the Librarian of Congress, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler spoke about the work being done to modernize the E-rate program. The Commission is committing $2 billion in unused E-rate funds to bring high-speed broadband connections to every school and library in the country. Chairman Wheeler recognized the important contributions not only of school libraries in helping educate the next generation, but also of public libraries in providing a place for students to connect to the Internet and do their homework after school. He called out the role that public libraries play in supporting and training adults who need information about employment or health resources, or who need to use e-government programs and services.
Roberto Rodriguez, Special Assistant to the President for Education Policy, talked about ConnectED and the critical work of teachers and libraries in transforming schools so that students are better prepared for the 21st century. He applauded school librarians as “champions on the front line” and acknowledged public libraries that usually are the only place in town where people can connect to the Internet at no cost. Read Roberto Rodriguez's Remarks at Digital Learning Day.
More than 2000 Digital Learning Day events were held in every state and in more than 30 countries. A group of about 100 representatives of school districts from across the country came to Washington to demonstrate their innovative digital learning projects. School administrators, teachers, students, and librarians from Maryland, Alabama, Virginia, Florida, Pennsylvania, D.C., and South Dakota showed how creatively education professionals are using technology to transform learning.
Judy Woodruff, Co-Anchor and Managing Editor of the PBS NewsHour, moderated a panel of federal and state experts who discussed the difference that digital learning can make. Panelists were joined by special guests – a student, educational leaders, and even a "technology integration specialist”! Videos gave inside views of how seamlessly technology is being integrated into student-centered, and often student-driven, education. In a number of cases, the library was where these innovative and collaborative activities were taking place – something that sent this librarian home with a strong sense of professional pride.