learning.com: Spearheading Digital Literacy

Keith Oelrich, CEO Digital literacy has today become a necessary component of curriculum across educational institutions, mainly for its potential to impart the right skills required to achieve success in the modern workplace. By 2020, it is estimated that nearly 80 percent of jobs will require some level of technology proficiency. As such, students require opportunities to learn and develop their digital literacy skills—starting as early as in kindergarten. Learning.com was built from this simple idea—what technology could do to change the lives of students. In 1999, a team of educators and innovators came together, determined to bring the power of digital world into the classrooms.

Today, Learning.com exists to serve schools and districts at the intersection of three major trends that impact education: the importance of teaching digital literacy to ensure students are prepared for success in the digital world; recognition of the impact of teaching coding and computer science at all grade levels; and the efforts being made by districts to break away from traditional curriculum publishers toward digital content. Learning.com provides an intuitive, flexible, and personalized digital education experience built for educators by educators. They make it easy to engage students while offering a comprehensive and reliable educational platform that supports districts by empowering teachers through an easy training process, helping track the results and get return on their educational investments.

"We believe in creating instructional experiences tailored for different skill levels, reading levels, interests, learning styles, and other parameters"

Keith Oelrich, the CEO of Learning. com, has been a pioneer in the K12 online education sector for the past two decades, serving as the CEO of several companies that have collectively provided K12 online education programs to thousands of districts, tens of thousands of schools, and millions of students. “Computer science has been taught in schools for decades, but usually only at the high school level, and as an elective,” says Oelrich. But, that is changing rapidly, as school districts across the country adapt to digital student assessments, recognizing that their students are woefully unprepared for the rapidly changing digital world. There are two factors which explain the rapid shift in school districts’ adoption of digital technology, according to Oelrich: declining state assessment scores and a serious lag in tech skills of U.S. students’ when compared to the rest of the world.

Digital Learning Tools

“As states move student assessment testing online, student scores tend to drop–sometimes dramatically–because they are not used to the online testing environment,” explains Oelrich.

We provide technology skills curriculum that can be used in a variety of ways–and best of all–teachers don’t have to have prior experience teaching technology to use the Learning.com solutions

Results from recent studies reveal similar insights, pointing out that the U.S. economy is losing about $1.3 trillion per year due to low productivity caused by a shortage of tech skills in the workforce.

Learning.com is uniquely positioned to help schools meet these challenges by providing online programs that teach students digital skills such as keyboarding, computer fundamentals, coding, online safety, digital citizenship, and business applications like spreadsheets, word processors and, presentations. The company makes sure to engage students with project-based learning, an effective instructional strategy to help students build deep content understanding, raise academic achievement, and motivation to learn. Oelrich says that although the benefits of using project-based learning are well known, many educators are not sure how to get started. Inquiry–Learning.com's 21st century skills curriculum that takes a project-based approach to integrating technology into core instruction empowers teachers with classroom-ready projects, lesson plans, implementation strategies, and a self-paced professional development course.

The Inquiry solution includes six projects per grade level; two in ELA, two in math, and one each in science and social studies. It assists students learn about productivity tools, internet research, multimedia presentations, and online communication. The solutions also help identify skill gaps with built-in pre-tests that assess the digital literacy skills needed to successfully complete each project, auto-assign lessons to address gaps and ensure the students have the skills needed for projects, providing opportunities to evaluate and comment on their learning experience with project reflections.

Learning.com has successful use cases from thousands of school districts and the company has partnered with over 15,000 schools across 50 states. Recently, Learning.com's longtime customer Pasadena Independent School District (ISD) jumped at the opportunity to pilot Inquiry. Pasadena ISD implemented Inquiry at four campuses: three elementary schools and one middle school. Instructional Technology Specialist Emily Bourgeois led the pilot program at a district level. Technology teacher Patty Gordon and Technology Liaison Marie Alanis implemented Inquiry in their classes. “Project-based Learning is the best way to acquire and retain skills because it incorporates many learning styles,” says Alanis about the benefits of Inquiry’s project-based approach. “Students can immediately apply what they’re learning to a final product that’s meaningful and relevant to them.”

Alanis, who piloted Inquiry with second and fourth grade students, observed similar reactions. While Pasadena ISD primarily implemented Inquiry in Technology Applications classes, the educators agreed the curriculum “bridged the gap” between classroom instruction and technology. “It’s a great way to get classroom teachers involved with using technology on a regular basis,” says Alanis.

Key Functionalities

Learning.com’s digital literacy solution also offers online safety lessons including the topics like cyberbullying, privacy, and the ethical use of digital resources. The main focus of the lessons is on critical online safety skills including how to stay safe on social media platforms, how to create and store passwords and how to identify and avoid computer viruses. It prepares students for safely navigating online activities like shopping, chatting, banking, or conducting research and networking. The company also prepares students for the future prospects where 80 percent of middle-skill job openings require knowledge of digital productivity tools such as spreadsheets and word-processing.

Learning.com’s business applications solution offers an introduction and foundational understanding of spreadsheets, word processing and presentations, covering common word processing functions in a generic software environment and helping students learn how to track, organize and present data within a spreadsheet, as well as teaching basic database functions. The company also offers computational thinking and coding solutions, helping students understand and apply the skills needed to succeed in a digitized world.

The Learning.com platform is flexible to account for differing levels of teacher technology competency, while also ensuring that all students in a class are being taught at the same level. “We provide technology skills curriculum that can be used in a variety of ways–and the best of all–teachers don’t have to have prior experience teaching technology to use the Learning.com solutions,” says Oelrich. In addition, Learning. com is well positioned to meet the challenges of the rapid shift from print instructional materials to digital in the education sector with solutions that help personalize learning for each student.

Building a Digital Future

“We believe in creating instructional experiences tailored for different skill levels, reading levels, interests, learning styles, and other parameters to create an individualized learning experience that is engaging,” expresses Oelrich. The functionality and applicability of Learning.com’s solutions can be attributed to the company’s team of experts. “Each day, they are doing something good for students, teachers and schools–helping them make the shift to an increasingly digital world,” beams Oelrich.

Through implementation services and professional development, Learning. com plans to continue serve educators as they integrate technology and digital content into instructions. “We are proud of the work that we do with districts across the nation as they make the shift toward digital curriculum, and in helping their students gain the digital literacy skills they need to be successful in online assessments, in college and in their future careers,” concludes Oelrich.

- Eileen Singh
    March 21, 2017