EDITORIAL: Going digital in the class room more than a notion

This is the time of the year where state lawmakers start hinting (some pre-file leaving little doubt) at their intentions come January 2015. One idea that comes from state Sen. John Albers, R-Roswell, would require public schools in the state to be totally digital by 2020.

While details of the proposal are sketchy, the only thing Sen. Albers has promised is that the digital effort won’t become another unfunded mandate if passed. That’s hard to believe considering the General Assembly’s history -- and a total digital effort is much more than electronic textbooks and smartboards.

Many of the state’s school districts, such as Houston and Bibb, will have few backbone problems, but many other districts simply don’t have the digital infrastructure to handle the demands of an all-digital classroom, nor do students have access or the devices necessary to go in that direction. Another aspect is teacher training in using digital tools. While students have an uncanny knack for technology, not so for many teachers.

Forsyth County has pioneered digital in the classroom. It was one of the first districts to have laptop carts that could be transported from room to room, but that’s ancient history for that district now. It has implemented the BYOT (Bring Your Own Technology) program. Students can use their own tablets, smartphones, gaming consoles, e-readers, netbook computers and laptops in class and log into the system’s digital infrastructure. Teachers there developed the “4 C’s of Digital Age Learning” “Creativity, Collaboration, Communication and Critical Thinking.” According to the district’s website, “These skills are essential for successful careers in today’s colleges and businesses.”

Forsyth County has a successful platform that could be implemented elsewhere. No need to reinvent the wheel, but it won’t be clear sailing.

What we will watch closely during the next session is whether Albers can keep his word. Lawmakers are quick to tell school systems what to do without giving them the resources to do it.