Why Digital Skills Should be in Your Learning Loss Recovery Plan

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The pandemic has affected all aspects of life, and the disruption felt by students is no exception. A phrase that has been top of mind lately is learning loss. An analysis by McKinsey puts the issue into measurable terms:

“Students in [the] sample learned only 67 percent of the math and 87 percent of the reading that grade-level peers would typically have learned by the fall. On average, that means students lost the equivalent of three months of learning in mathematics and one-and-a-half months of learning in reading.”

To address the issue, the American Rescue Plan earmarks 20% of a district’s new funds for learning loss recovery. While many debate about what is being lost vs how students are learning differently, schools are looking at ways to make up for time lost. 

Digital skills are well suited to be part of the solution. Digital skills like web, game, and app development are fun and engaging ways to reinforce math, English, science, and social concepts through real-world application. Another benefit of digital skills education is that it enhances cognitive skills such as computational and critical thinking, which can lift students’ abilities across subject matter — an important benefit after an unconventional school year. (Further reading on the link between computational thinking and core-subjects.)

As a digital skills teaching and learning solution, complete with projects designed for core subject integration, BSD Education can help reinforce core subject learning and develop transferable skills, which can assist in learning loss recovery.

Digital Skills Reinforce Core Subjects

Mathematics and language arts have been pointed to as core subjects hit hardest this past school year. In many ways, digital skills empower someone to process information and communicate in our era. Said differently, digital skills is the intersection of math and language arts, where reasoning and problem-solving happens. 

To illustrate the point, we can look at a couple of BSD’s projects. A popular project this last year has been “The People Who Inspire Me,” which asks students to reflect on those who have impacted their lives. Students sew together traditional writing and reflection processes with new digital components to build a website using industry-standard HTML and CSS. In one of BSD’s AI projects, “Digital Assistant,” students use JavaScript, and the link between math and programming becomes apparent. Students work with variables, conditionals, patterns, and percentages, and utilize arithmetic operators, arrays, and the random function to program outcomes. 

From science to social studies, there are many cross-curricular learning objectives digital skills can support. I even have a teacher who modified our “Trivia Game Maker” to be a Spanish Quiz.

Creating Digital Products Captures Attention & Imagination

Classes always aim to be engaging, but this becomes even more important for learning loss recovery plans that will utilize out-of-school time (afterschool, summer enrichment, extended school year), as the American Rescue Plan suggests. Learning digital skills is fun, and that makes them perfect for the task at hand. Giving students the opportunity to create is inherently engaging. Whether students are developing an AI chatbot, website, or platformer game, digital skills projects capture their attention, spark imagination, and harnesses passion.

Agency is a core value of BSD’s evidence-based pedagogy. That means that each student finishes with a unique piece of work, not a cookie-cutter experience. Projects are designed with extension activities in mind and allow students to further customize or reenvision their work. The result is students staying engaged as they decide the direction to take their project and what to incorporate. My most successful lessons come from students’ refreshing ideas, going back to their work, and implementing something new. Through the process of creating, students will entrench themselves in their own learning and assist in their recovery.

Learning Digital Skills Develops Broad Cognitive Abilities

Teaching 21st-century skills means honing in on strategies that will have lasting impacts. Skills such as computational thinking, design thinking, coding/programming, and digital citizenship have been identified as future proof and fundamental. Computational thinking is the process of breaking down a problem in order to solve it. It includes decomposition, pattern recognition, abstraction, and algorithms. Steps for design thinking include empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test in an effort to create, based on the needs and experience of a user. In short, developing these abilities enhances someone’s ability to think and can help accelerate learning going forward. With the right approach, these skills are present in a digital skills education program. 

Website, app, and product development and design projects that utilize coding are ideal exercises for building future-proof skills. BSD’s pedagogy accentuates these abilities and the transferable aspects of digital skills learning, including the space to reflect on digital citizenship. In this way, BSD’s curricula are designed for all students, not just the ones that will become computer programmers. Each of these disciplines has broad applicability across subject matter and are essential to many job functions in the working world. Meaning, these skills follow students throughout their education and careers.

Implementing a Digital Skills Program

Incorporating digital skills in your recovery plan enriches and reinforces core subject learning, focuses students in engaging and imaginative ways, and develops and enhances cognitive skills like computational thinking. Another aspect to consider, though learning loss is a top issue as the world emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, there are other trends that make digital skills highly relevant. Most notable is the shifting future of work. As another article from McKinsey suggests:

“In the digital era, educators need to expand their understanding of what it means to be literate in the 21st century: not replacing traditional learning but complementing it. Computer programming and digital literacy are becoming core skills.” 

Of course, implementing a digital skills program can be hard, but it doesn’t have to be. BSD Education partners with educators to make implementing a digital skills program easy. We make it turnkey by providing all the necessary pieces: platform, curriculum, professional development, and highly responsive support. With the right methods in place, educators can hasten learning loss recovery, and put students on a path to developing future-proof skills and a more curious, adaptable, resilient, and empathetic mindset through digital skills. 

about Ryan
Ryan is a BSD contributor. He was formerly a PD facilitator, coach, and curriculum developer.
Ryan graduated from Penn State University in 2007 with a BA in Film & Video and minors in Sociology and Women’s Studies. He took his predilection for technology to the classroom and has been teaching ever since. Working with pre-school to high schoolers, Ryan has found a way to sneak computational and design thinking into even his youngest of classes. Ryan also finds satisfaction in sharing his experience through supporting coworkers and has found himself gravitate towards management and leadership roles over his career.

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