Mansfield, OH (March 1, 2023) – The 2023 Digital Learning Annual Conference took place February 13th - 15th in Austin, Texas. DLAC celebrates online, blended, and digital learning practitioners and providers by helping educators advance their schools, districts, and programs to their next attainable level. GOAL Digital Academy is dedicated to serving those who are new to online education. From educators in the early stages to the most experienced educators using technology, GOAL educators are constantly training. At the DLAC, directors, teachers, tutors, software developers, and counselors collaborated to share findings and discuss instruction and leadership through technology.
Since 2020, education has been transformed by technology and digital learning. Online learning wasn't new, but it became the only approach for some during the pandemic. In fact, it has been available to some K-12 public school students for more than 20 years. The past few years' events have thrust online and remote learning into the spotlight like never before. More and more mainstream educators are now interested in digital learning.
The Director of Curriculum and Instruction at GOAL, Dionna Randas, expresses the importance of the DLAC. She describes it as an excellent opportunity for the staff at GOAL to be exposed to and energized by new ideas, practices, and tools for the online learning environment. The time at DLAC allows for a lot of team building and collaboration, which is significant for all GOAL members. She recently heard a quote that stuck with her," unengaged teachers equals unengaged students." Dionna Randas commented, "As Director of Curriculum/Instruction, it is my job to find ways for the teachers to be engaged in their content, and DLAC offers an array of sessions and resources to help me do that."
One student in a session discussion panel explained, "We do things (in our virtual school) because they make sense, not because that's how they are traditionally done." In response, Casey Clark, a Teacher at GOAL Digital Academy, stated, "We should aim for GOAL staff, students, and parents to "not just tell "a" story, but make sure we are telling "the story" by establishing our voice in everything we do." She finds that Brand Ambassadorship is essential in the online education narrative. She goes on to say, “Students choose online learning for a reason, so thinking about education differently can help them navigate personalized instruction successfully.”
A School Counselor and Teacher at GOAL finds that having the resources to create an engaging, fun, and topical online learning space is essential when teaching digital lessons. As a School Counselor and Teacher, Angeline Burke was in attendance for mathematics, counseling, and resources for online learning sessions. She explains, "I learned a lot of new skills and resources pertaining to counseling online, suicide prevention, and differentiating mathematics to compensate for an individual's educational gaps."
In order to improve the professional practice of teaching and engaging students in online and hybrid educational learning environments, educators must continuously grow in practice and deliver only the best educational experience to the youth. A Teacher at GOAL, Kelly Watson, found the conference to be highly informative. She stated, "DLAC offers a unique gathering of minds set to collaborate, innovate, and transform the future and success of online learning." Watson further explained what a wonderful opportunity it was for like-minded educators and administrators to engage in discourse while sharing ideas and successes. Her key takeaway is that it is imperative to stretch the boundaries of what is perceived to be possible.
Another Teacher at GOAL Digital Academy, Kyleigh Holtsberry, collaborated with other science/math teachers about techniques and strategies to help with student engagement. She expressed, "The DLAC also taught me about new technology and resources to utilize in my classes."
The biggest takeaway Amy Holloway, an Educational Advocate, got from the conference was that the students’ best interests were in mind. Everyone came together with caring efforts trying their very best to help each student receive a good experience through online learning. Amy Holloway says, "We all shared the same heart for our families that we work with. It is a wonderful feeling knowing that so many people care about these families."
Stephanie Bowers, an Intervention Specialist at GOAL, attended sessions related to technology, special education, effective leadership, student and family engagement, and school culture. She explains how she acquired numerous tips and tricks to increase productivity, performance, and engagement to assist the staff and students working in an online setting. Bowers mentioned, "DLAC was a great experience! I am eager to bring back some of the technology and leadership practices to the GOAL Digital Academy staff. Creating a working environment that is inviting and encouraging to staff and students will assist in helping students thrive in the classroom."
One Tutor at GOAL attended the DLAC for the first time and was amazed by the experience. Carol Lucas voiced, "I gleaned a plethora of information which culminated into many invaluable takeaways of helpful tips and strategies to apply in my position as a tutor, mentor, and TESOL overseer." Four sessions raised her academic and cultural lens to a new level. All four sessions were classified under the main topic category of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
With the opportunity to listen and work with other districts, new doors and ideas have come to light on how to incorporate different perspectives at GOAL Digital Academy. Coming together to strategize and discuss the best approaches for a successful online learning experience is critical. The DLAC provides various virtual and blended presentations for expert insight. Educators were informed about topics ranging from teacher retention to inclusion, as well as effective leadership and school culture. Learn more by visiting https://www.deelac.com/about-the-conference.