Learn the 5 Principles to Making a Digital Transition

By Marty Creel, Chief Academic Officer and Vice President, Curriculum & Instruction, Discovery Education


All across the country, school districts are adapting to digital curriculum to give their students the competitive edge they will need once they leave the classroom. Making this transition to digital learning can be fraught with fresh challenges, but there are a few best practices that will help newcomers navigate their way to success.

Here are five principles to help guide your digital transition.

1. Good instruction trumps everything.

A great number of digital transitions get derailed when they are solely focused on devices. If you begin with the supposition that good instruction drives meaningful change, form will rightfully follow function.

2. Students and teachers need help navigating the oceans of digital content.

Content that engages students online must be deemed a priority since a significant amount of available content is superficial and dependent on sources that can’t be easily verified.

When it comes to digital content it’s usually feast or famine. There’s either too much for students to meaningfully interpret or not enough of the right type of content. This is where districts turn to trusted services to vet and organize content for them. Getting the content aligned with district curriculum also saves teachers a little bit of their most precious commodity: time.

3. Effective digital transitions are thoughtfully planned, executed, and measured.

The success of a digital transition is directly related to the clarity of its goals and vision, the sustainability of its plans, and the thoroughness of its reporting measures.

Presenting a clear and detailed explanation to all stakeholders of the educational goals behind a digital transition should be your first priority. It is also important to acknowledge that new methodology may initially impact workload.

What’s needed most is a realistic approach that employs reporting measures that reflect how predetermined educational targets are being met. For the short term feedback (that is essential to win funding), plan on collecting anecdotal reports that show early success.

4. People will only buy into a change they believe adds value.

Teachers and parents alike want to understand why their school has opted to refocus classroom instruction to take advantage of technology. Visit schools or search the web for stories of successful digital implementation to show the benefits of a digital transition.

5. Digital transition is a major culture shift. Ignore this at your own peril.

Digital transition is about the people involved more than the technology. Schools and districts that ignore this often wonder why their expensive tech investment collects dust in most classrooms or is used for occasional entertainment.

Take the time up front to help teachers learn the expected instructional change. The first year of a successful tech rollout should include demonstration classrooms that allow other teachers, parents, and community members to see the change expected, while teachers have access to the anticipated technology. This ensures that year two, which may include wider scale transition, is built on a firm foundation of in-district experience.

This type of attention to the human-cultural aspects of digital transition dramatically increases the likelihood of an instructional return on investment.


Learn more about making the digital leap, and how to leverage digital resources to achieve equity and excellence, at Powerful Practices in Atlanta, GA on October 16, 2016. Register today at DiscoveryEducation.com/PowerfulPractices.

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5 Comments

  1. Tanner Johnson said:

    I teach in Modesto, CA 6th grade and have been trying to make a shift over to digital media, digital sources (to support our adopted curriculum), and the way students/teach communicate throughout a lesson project. For example, I’ve set my students up with Google* accounts so they may work collaboratively through Google Docs, create presentations working as a pair through Google Slides, and create vibrant presentations through Piktochart*. The problem I have now is I’ve effectively mapped out how to implement all these glorious, innovative, and engaging methods for student-led learning, and I have little equipment to apply these lesson strategies with. I have only a few student computers in my classroom, NO computer lab, no roving cart with devices for classes to use, …nothing. This is the most frustrating part of teaching!

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