This blog was first published on Education NC on November 19, 2019.
Digital learning has gotten a bad rap, in some cases reasonably so, especially for the lack of results with disadvantaged learners. Meanwhile, alarms are sounding about the rise of online screen time co-timed with surges in anxiety, depression, suicide and insomnia among teens and young adults, here and abroad. While providers entice students with more game-like digital learning — possibly an extra blow to students’ mental health — parents are paying consultants substantial sums to reverse screen addiction.
Yet investment continues in online learning and digital tools. (Note: Neither Public Impact nor the authors invest in or provide digital learning tools.) That’s partly because there’s potential profit to be made, but there’s also a potential benefit for students: Digital tools can help meet each student’s learning needs, especially important for those whose needs are poorly met in traditional, one-size-fits-all classrooms and those who need non-traditional hours for learning.
So, what’s the missing killer app that could help digital learning tools fulfill their promise at large scale — for educators, students and digital providers — without ravaging students’ mental health?
The answer is old-school: human connection. Not just any connection, but well-orchestrated teamwork among adults teaching the same students.