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Digital Learning Addresses Challenges in K-12 Ed.

The Alliance for Excellent Education recently released a new brief called "The Digital Learning Imperative: How Technology and Teaching Meet Today's Educational Challenges," as a follow up to similar report issued nearly two years ago.

The group and its founder, former gov. Bob Wise, are also partners with former gov. Jeb Bush and his Foundation for Excellence in education, with the two teaming up to launch the Digital Learning Now initiative in the fall of 2010, an initiative aimed at getting states to pass policies more friendly to digital learning, but that some critics have alleged has ulterior commercial motives.

The update notes the latest developments in the ed-tech arena while acknowledging that challenges raised in the original report still affect today's teachers and learners. The report breaks those challenges into three categories:

1. Students are not leaving high school prepared for a global economy and fast-paced workplace. Only 72 percent of high schoolers graduate and many go into college needing remediation, the report says.
2. Schools are facing budget shortfalls and do not anticipate having new major funding sources in the near future. In fiscal year 2012, 42 states will be facing $103 billion in budget gaps, the report says.
3. Not all students have access to high-quality teachers, teaching strategies, and learning experiences. Today's teachers, on average, have only 1-2 years of experience, down from an average of 15 years of experience in 1987. And many schools do not have access to teachers in specific subject areas, such as physics or chemistry, especially in rural areas, says the report.

Technology can help address these gaps and challenges, the report says, through real-time data and assessment feedback, a variety of online and digital content, and increased communication with teachers, parents, and students, teachers.

"As schools and districts explore the many opportunities that digital learning affords teachers and students, especially with today's global economy and demands for innovation, they see the potential for meeting the needs of increasingly diverse students more effectively," it reads.

And with technology enabling a greater variety of course offerings, students can take courses they find more compelling—and avoid the boredom many dropouts say is a reason they fail to graduate.

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