Review:Authentic Learning in the Digital Age


Authentic Learning in the Digital Age. Don’t let the title fool you!  This book provides insight and strategies that go far beyond simply using technology in the classroom. This great resource provides multiple strategies for creating a culture of inquiry and student centred learning at the system, school or classroom level.


Authentic Learning in the Digital Age is based on the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia.  The SLA is founded on inquiry based learning for its students and guided in practice by 5 core values:

  • inquiry
  • research
  • collaboration
  • presentation
  • reflection


The values framework allows for individualized learning via tech integration but most importantly it is not the use of technology that drives the learning; it’s the students themselves.

More Than Just Laptops

In addition to the 5 core values, the staff, students and the school community develop and foster strong personal relationships that allows for students to learn about learning and to take the necessary risks in order to succeed. Access to technology does not minimize or invalidate the role of the teacher. In fact, it allows for strong relationships to develop as the personalized learning process occurs. These relationships do not happen by luck, but by a concerted effort by all stakeholders.

Student Centred Learning

If are curious as to how you can create a culture of learning in your school, this book provides fantastic guiding principles, alternative opportunities for creating inquiry based classrooms (rather than a whole school or district approach) and relevant student reflection. The student reflections speak to the key message of the book and the heart of SLA; the students. The students’ voices reflect  learners who thrive in various, authentic situations and who are active learners and community members who transfer their skills to their school, community and world at large. 

Truly Individualized Learning

This book supports the incredible work that my fellow Ontario Technology Enabled Learning and Teaching Contacts (TELTC)are modelling and encouraging throughout schools across Ontario. TELTCs are encouraging the shift from content memorization to empowering student learning with technology  so that students learn to ask their own questions, conduct their research, transfer their skills to the new learning situations and create something with the information they acquire.

With a leap of faith in themselves and their students, educators are able to move beyond the traditional role and guide students in applying their deeper learning and this is what the staff at SLA are embracing.

Ok, There is Some Tech Talk!

True to its title,the book does provides a digital connection throughout the book. These digital connections offer a variety of suggestions for integrating tech and how to best support the learner’s needs.  As we know, there is no perfect digital tool to support student learning and this book provides suggestions that meet the wide-range of technology educators have access to in their classrooms.


Although the book does support the use of technology in the classroom, after reading the book, any educator, regardless of where they are on the continuum of embedding tech in the classroom, will have learned sound pedagogical practice around student inquiry, research, collaboration, presentation and reflection. I recommend this book for educators who are considering or actively involved in the shift in student learning, regardless of your comfort level with technology in the classroom.

My record of learning via Storify.

For ongoing learning you can follow  SLA principal Chris Lehmann on twitter.

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