Today, children and young people grow up with a rich and complex treasure trove of continually changing materials available to them through a variety of screen media. There is so much to learn and discover online! The rise of user-generated content has enabled even very young children to begin to discover the power of digital authorship, developing their creative expression skills and reaching audiences with their drawings, stories and songs. The very nature of reading and literacy are in a state of transformation as new forms of information, entertainment and propaganda are part of everyday life.
Some people see digital learning as a way to improve upon traditional education; others see it as a way to provide remedial or accelerated opportunities to those with special needs; still others aim to completely transform education as we know it to become more interest-driven and relevant to contemporary life. In this course, students select topics of interest and develop expertise on one or more of the many new paradigms developing in digital learning: massively open online courses (MOOCs), youth media, digital pedagogy, coding/programming in K-12, virtual reality in education, blended learning, adaptive learning, videogames in education, online fan communities as learning spaces, media literacy, apps in education, technology integration, virtual high schools, and much more.
As one of the fastest growing sectors of the economy, digital technology in education represents an interdisciplinary merging of communication technology, media and education. Fortune magazine reported that venture capitalists have invested over $1 billion in educational technology in 2014, which is four times as much as they invested in 2010. Over the next ten years, educators in elementary and secondary (K-12) education and those in higher education may (or may not) adapt to the reality of ubiquitous wireless broadband access at home, school and workplace, or they may strenuously resist change to maintain an emphasis on lecturing and face-to-face instruction. Because the future of digital learning is uncertain, much will depend upon effective communication and mobilization of public opinion. That’s why a URI student with knowledge and experience at the intersections of communication technology, media and education will be in high demand.