“Just Right” Content for Digital Learning


We’ve all heard the story of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.” While the bears were away, the hungry little girl, Goldilocks, entered their cabin and tasted their porridge. However, one was too hot, and another one was too cold. Finally, baby bear’s porridge was just right, and she ate it all up. Likewise, as teachers design digital learning experiences based on their students’ personal strengths and interests, they need to search for the “just right” instructional resources to meet their students’ varied needs.

With the use of the technology for digital lesson design and delivery, teachers have powerful tools that make it easy to communicate with students; manage the virtual classroom; provide access to instructional resources; and track student mastery of learning standards. Yet despite all that functionality, teachers still face additional ongoing challenges.

Teachers are now engaged in a time-intensive daily process of designing digital instruction from resources they find on the Internet. A recent survey noted that teachers spend up to seven hours per week searching for instructional resources and another five hours designing their own instructional materials. (Marci Goldberg of K-12 Market Advisors)

The seamless integration of interoperable technology resources within an intentionally designed digital learning ecosystem can provide teachers with the necessary digital lesson design tools and access to curated learning objects that are vetted for quality and correlated to learning standards. This digital content may include resources licensed from publishers; curated open educational resources; and teacher-created resources that are shared throughout the district.

As districts prioritize the process of curating instructional resources and making them readily accessible, teachers can begin designing digital instruction more effectively. The following strategies are important to remember during the process of selecting digital resources while designing lessons:

Focus on the Standards – Teachers should utilize content that is correlated to learning standards to make an instructional difference for each learner. After identifying the essential skills embedded within the standard, the teachers can determine what processes or products might demonstrate understanding. Teachers should be able to conduct a search for standards-correlated content and embed it in their assignments. These assignments should be designed to help students show mastery of a particular concept or skill.

Scaffold Understanding – Within the design of a lesson that incorporates digital content, teachers should scaffold understanding. How are those resources being used to engage student learning? Online discussions can include curated content. At the beginning of a lesson, questions can set the stage for new learning and help students focus on the core components of a concept or process. Video within a lesson should be used purposefully and with short clips (less than a few minutes) to stimulate questions and critical thinking. Directions need to be clear, yet minimal, so that students can utilize critical thinking when solving problems. Finally, there should be a variety of types of formative and summative assessments provided so that students have multiple risk-free opportunities to demonstrate learning and ensure success.

Plan for Interaction – After students view video or another form of digital content, they should be encouraged to interact and collaborate with each other to construct new meanings from that information. Students can participate in discussions to pose new questions and ideas about their learning. Assignments can be collaborative to support students working together to solve problems. Teachers can use digital content to help students compare and contrast new concepts in these collaborative groups, and students can create authentic products to demonstrate their learning.

Utilize a Variety of Content – As with all forms of media being shared with students, teachers must carefully preview all digital content. Teachers should consider the needs and expectations of their learning communities – the age of the students and the values of the community – before utilizing digital content for instructional purposes. In addition to the use of video, other types of digital content should be utilized for instruction, including interactives, images, audio files, documents, and eBooks.

Personalize Learning Experiences – Students have unique talents, abilities, and differences that can pose challenges to the one-size fits all classroom. By personalizing learning experiences, teachers can help students identify the pathways that meet their individual learning needs and interests. A teacher could begin helping students identify their strengths through a learning style inventory or interest checklist, but digital content can also be used meaningfully to differentiate learning experiences. One way that this can be accomplished is by designing personalized playlists correlated to learning standards and assigning them to students based on their learning needs.

Like Goldilocks who consumed the bear’s “just right” porridge, through intentional lesson design, today’s digital age students can engage with the “just right” digital content so that they can experience academic success and make the most out of every teachable moment. Those students may even become producers of their own “just right” original content that they are ready to share with others.

  1. #1 by Denise Wydra on July 25, 2017 - 12:14 pm

    Effective educational content can never truly be “free” because it requires human judgment (or AI juice) to choose and assemble. In the model imagined above, teachers have that job–which means tax money is paying for it.

  2. #2 by Lisa Kim on July 21, 2018 - 10:26 pm

    The roll of technology in today’s classroom is growing increasingly crucial for student engagement and communication. In this digital age, students use technology to communicate with their peers, loved ones, and to problem solve their day to day inquisitions. It is logical to incorporate technology into the classroom to improve upon communication with students and to aid in instruction. The “just right” technology porridge that is mentioned above however must meet more than the needs of the student. Students come first, however without the proper resources and training, incorporating digital learning into the classroom may do more harm than good. As a high school teacher in a title one school, I understand the need and longing students have to use more technology in the classroom. Due to their constant use of smart phones and tech gear, digital learning and technology based engagement seems to truly grasp the attention of my students. Although the interest is there, my lack of understanding of technology and the lack of free online resources prohibit me from integrating more technology into my classroom. As it is important to find learning styles that are “just right” for the student, it is equally important to find teaching styles that are “just right” for the teacher, and that takes some time. Perhaps with more available resources for students and proper training in utilizing technology in the classroom for teachers, digital learning can be integrated into the classroom as soon as everyone seems to want it.

  3. #3 by DC Lefler on September 19, 2019 - 2:14 pm

    I have found myself back in the classroom after ten years as a teacher/librarian. Ten years ago when I left the English classroom there was not much technology being used. The library has and always will lend itself to the use of blended learning. I am grateful for the content in this blog. I am the teacher in the cartoon. The use of tech in the classroom has had ten years of evolution on me. At times I feel like I am doing more harm then good. I have reverted back to some of my old ways slipping in the technology fittingly to my teaching style.

  4. #4 by John Miller on March 29, 2020 - 6:19 pm

    Hello Dr. Clark,

    Thank you for your insightful post! I am writing to ask permission to use the cartoon above in a slide presentation I m submitting for a class in Instructional Theories and Models in Technology Education. Would this be alright? I will not alter the image and will give you full attribution. Thank you for your consideration.


    • #5 by BYOT Network on March 29, 2020 - 8:40 pm

      That sounds fine to me, John. Thank you for asking!

      • #6 by John Miller on March 29, 2020 - 10:12 pm

        Thank you!

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