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Southwest Digital Learning Seminar – Arizona, ASU

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Digital Learning Seminar - ASU

Digital Learning Seminar – Arizona, ASU, September 28, 2011

  • Dr. Sybil Francis, Executive Director of the Center for the Future of Arizona and State Senator Rich Crandall, Chairman of the Senate Education Committee, discuss the Southwest Digital Learning Seminar that focused on the use of technology in education.


  • Dr. Sybil Francis – Executive Director of the Center for the Future of Arizona, Rich Crandall – State Senator and Chairman of the Senate Education Committee


Ted Simons: The Southwest Digital Learning Seminar was held this week at SkySong at Arizona State University. The seminar gathered together educators, business leaders and politicians to learn more about technology and learning. Here to talk more about the seminar is Dr. Sybil Francis, Executive Director of the Center for the Future of Arizona. Also here is State Senator, Rich Crandall. Good to have you both here. Thanks for joining us.

Give us more of an idea of what the summit was designed to do. It was held the last couple of days?

Dr. Sybil Francis: Yes, it was on Monday and Tuesday. We believe that online learning has a huge potential to impact educational outcomes for students in Arizona so we wanted to bring leaders and education together from across the state, superintendents, legislators and others to really talk about what we can do in Arizona to help advance this agenda.

Ted Simons: Where are we right now with that particular agenda?

Dr. Sybil Francis: Well we are at the beginning of it. I think Arizona is pretty well positioned to take advantage of it but there’s a lot more that we can do. We need to look at the infrastructure we have in place. We need to look at teacher professional development around online learning and really get families and schools ready to move forward with it.

Ted Simons: Is that the kind of thing you see as well as far as where we need to go with this? Because again, we’re talking about Arizona here. We don’t want to be left behind but we’re certainly not at the forefront of this. So what’s going on out there?

Sen. Rich Crandall: But we are on the cutting edge. And Ted I’ve got to say it’s nice to talk about something other than recalls and redistricting. This topic right here literally moves the needle. What we find is that your kids take 180 days to learn, my kids take 180 days to learn; that’s not true and that’s exactly how state policy is. Everybody has to sit in their chair for the same amount of time. Using technology, you take the best of a brick and mortar school and the best of online digital and blend them together.

Ted Simons: How would you do that? And by the way, when I hear “blended learning” I have no idea what that means. Give me a definition.

Sen. Rich Crandall: You’re not the only one. It’s so new that only a few states are moving in that direction; a few teachers are even moving that direction. Blended learning means you don’t worry about seat time; you focus on outcomes and also location. We have school districts where the learning takes place on the bus while they’re driving to school using technology. It could be at school, it could be at home, it could be anywhere.

Ted Simons: Offline, Online, Anywhere. Is that what “blended learning” really means?

Dr. Sybil Francis: “Blended learning” really is a blend of using online technology and as a way also to enhance to teacher effectiveness in the classroom and to address the individual needs of students. That’s really the beauty of online learning: the ability to meet students where they are in their own education, so very individualized. So that’s one of the beauties of it. You don’t necessarily want to do away with kids being in school and you really want to enhance the role of the teacher.

Ted Simons: Was there something discussed at the summit that wound up?there always seems to be one particular subject that people seem to focus on maybe more than other. Was there something at this particular summit that people found were specially interested in talking about?

Dr. Sybil Francis: I think they were really interested in what this can do for their schools.

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