The Do’s and Don’ts of Implementing New Digital Learning

Jeff Borden is on a mission to cultivate a learning disposition in students.

Working with educators inspires us in a multitude of ways: to understand exactly where the gaps are in educating our world’s youth and how we can work together to fix it; to enhance our product to make the lives of educators and students even easier as they empower students with our platform; and to never stop questioning and learning.

In this spirit, we sat down with some of the key educators from across the world to get their perspectives on some questions we not only had on our mind, but questions that we are hearing the entire educational community ask. Questions such as: What kind of change must be affected in education? What kinds of technology are you using to affect that change? What kinds of patterns do you see emerging in the field? What’s next?

And now, we want to share the answers we found with you. Because only by sharing the views of all of us working to affect change in education — from the thought leaders we interviewed to every single teacher changing lives in the classroom — can we open up the conversation and begin to move the needle.

Read on for an exclusive interview with educational changemaker Dr.  Jeff Borden, Chief Innovation Officer at Saint Leo University. This is one post in our #eduinnovator series, highlighting quotes from the 16 percent of educators who key thought leaders of education, where we go in-depth on the key trends in education, innovation, and how we can rethink traditional frameworks of education.


Jeff’s Journey Through Digital Learning

I was the very first professor at the University of Northern Colorado who taught online, back in 1996.  At my next appointment (Metropolitan State University) I became the faculty liaison for Blackboard. At that time, the school was exploring new learning management systems, and needed professors to pilot the various choices. This led to my piloting an eCollege course and providing a feedback / training session to my colleagues. The company liked my training so much that in 2001, after an offer to pay for my doctoral program, I joined eCollege as an employee (remaining an adjunct at Metro and eventually teaching for several schools). The company was acquired by Pearson and I moved on to head up various academic initiatives essentially as Chief Academic Officer for their higher ed division. In 2014 I moved to Saint Leo, which is where I am today, trying to move integrate digital learning models with pedagogical effective practices, at scale.   

When it comes to my experience in education, I have discovered a couple of key takeaways that are vital to take into account before we try to affect any change and implement any new digital learning technology into schools.

First, you need to make sure that when you are moving to online and tech solutions, your foundation is strong, so you are not just translating bad practices from on-ground to online.

Oftentimes, I see schools saying, “Here’s what we do face-to-face, let’s try to improve it by moving online…”  This isn’t likely the best move. Second, education is very behind the tech curve, especially when compared to other fields like health insurance, banking, etc. Different campus systems do not integrate very well, and users (students / faculty / etc) suffer when trying to do fairly simple tasks due to system incongruence.  Bureaucratic or interdependence issues often harm migration or upgrade efforts.  As a result, processes that should be more efficient and learning experiences that should be more powerful, often just make life more difficult.

How learning happens today, as mapped by Jeff Borden at a Social Media for Teaching and Learning event.

Do … Get Face-to-Face Right First, then Upgrade to Technology

In the last five years, people have woken up to realization that simply replicating what you are doing face-to-face is not a great idea. There is a lot of heavy lifting going into education and trying to improve it, as we must fix the things that were set up in the first place, but are not working now. People are slowly chipping away at that. At same time, new technologies are constantly emerging; some people are able to jump right in with the good stuff, while others are playing catch-up because they need to fix their foundational educational problems. The new technologies are great because even though they may not be universal, they are changing the way people think about education. For example, think about MOOCs. They were certainly very popular in the press for a while, and spurred the creations of Edx and Coursera, which led to some wonderful technological / eLearning discoveries.

This is the year we are seeing how crowdsourcing, peer-to-peer learning is coming on. The whole idea of giving students a platform by which to have a voice so that they can help one another, is brilliant. This gives them the ability to not only easily find open education resources and meaningful assets, but also to communicate with one another and say, “I don’t know how to do this, can someone help me?” If another student comes along and gives help (deepening their own understanding) that student can get to the learning endpoint even faster. Another upside? The technology allows you to mine the data to get a clearer picture of where the students are getting stuck.

Don’t …  Be Quick to Jump Ship from EdTech, Invest the Proper Time and Resources

Don’t take your eye off the ball. We have learned that it takes a healthy amount of time to become proficient and master technology.

Unfortunately, higher education is going the way of many big sports organizations around the world — following the model of “you hire a new coach and the team must win within two years” — because they don’t realize that time is required to train educators first before we can master the technology. Then, we must invest the time to conduct research to see if it is actually making a difference. Instead, schools say, “Let’s do a treatment. If we can get it approved by the ethics board, use the treatment immediately and then scrap it after six months.” But the brilliant ideas take time — time to learn the product, time to explore different ways of implementing it to make it work.

Instead of one semester or even one year, especially when new technology is involved, large-scale pilots should run at least 2-3 years. You must get past the stage of simply figuring out how to get it turned on and working. Only when you have normed the experience — when students, teachers, and support staff are all comfortable — that you can push past the set up to see if it is making a difference as part of the normal school day.

Lots of good solutions get thrown away because schools simply aren’t investing the time and the resources necessary.

A New Tool to Enable Digital Learning in Your Classroom

After exploring how to implement new digital learning, it is time to make it happen … and we have just the tool for you. 100mentors enables educators to engage students in their own learning processes, by empowering them to connect with top mentors (from NASA scientists and Google data scientists to Hollywood cinematographers and New York Post Editors, and more) who showcase the real-world applications of learning from the classroom.  At 100mentors, we are on a mission to inspire students to open up their circles of influence, by connecting them with mentors across the world. Join us in inspiring the world’s youth!

More About Jeff

In his role at St. Leo University, Dr. Jeff Borden creates an innovation incubator, promoting transformational and effective practices, at scale, that are research driven. These strategies bring together neuroscience, learning design, and education technology into an “Education 3.0” platform. Dr. Borden previously spent 12 years in various management positions with Pearson Education, the world’s leading learning company, with 40,000 employees in more than 80 countries.

As Digital Marketing Manager of 100mentors, Lucy is helping craft and spread the #100mentors message across the globe. Outside of 100mentors, Lucy actively seeks to spread good vibes, and collaborate with the great tech and marketing minds of the world.

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