You are here

Digital Learning Glossary

#  A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I J K  L  M  N O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z


This resource defines all the terms used in the Future Ready framework from the Alliance for Education. 

21st Century Skills

These skills include collaboration and teamwork, creativity and imagination, critical thinking, problem solving, digital literacy and citizenship become building blocks for learning.

1 to 1  

Programs that provide all students in a school, district, or state with their own laptop, netbook, tablet computer, or other mobile-computing device. One-to-one refers to one computer for every student.

A La Carte Model

This instructional model is one in which students take one or more courses entirely online with an online teacher of record and at the same time continue to have brick-and-mortar educational experiences.  Students may take the online courses either on the brick-and-mortar campus or off site.  (Source:  “Is K-12 Blended Learning Disruptive?” Christiansen, Horn, and Staker.)

Academic and Career Planning (ACP)

This process helps students integrate academic and career development activities and leads to a product that is created and maintained to document and support these activities. ACP facilitates personalizing each student’s educational experience while providing opportunities to set goals in preparation for their future.

Accessible Educational Materials

accessible educational materials, or AEM are “print- and technology-based educational materials, including printed and electronic textbooks and related core materials that are designed or converted in a way that makes them usable across the widest range of student variability regardless of format (print, digital, graphic, audio, video).  IDEA (the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) specifically focuses on accessible formats of print instructional materials.” CAST

Active Learning

Learning that happens through student participation in activities that emphasize active retrieval, application of knowledge, and reflection. Responsibility for learning shifts from the teacher as students are expected to do more with information than simply receive it. See also student-centered learning.

Adaptive Learning

An approach to creating a personalized learning experience for students that employs "a sophisticated, data-driven, and in some cases, nonlinear approach to instruction and remediation, adjusting to a learner's interactions and demonstrated performance level, and subsequently anticipating what types of content and resources learners need at a specific point in time to make progress." (Source:  The Journal, May 14, 2014)

App Flow

Mapping out a combination and sequence of apps that can help students meet lesson and learning objectives.

Assistive Technology Service

A service that directly assists a child with a disability in the selection, acquisition, or use of an assistive technology device. (Source: 20 U.S.C. §1401(2)

Asynchronous Learning

A student-centered teaching method that uses online resources to facilitate learning without requiring students and instructors to be in the same place at the same time.

Asynchronous Tools

These tools are available all of the time and are not dependent on others being available at the same time in order for an activity or communication to occur such as blogs, email, or twitter.

Authentic Activities

Learning tasks or activities that use actual or simulated real-world content, and reflect real-world situations.

Authentic Learning Environment

An environment designed to make learning relevant and transferable to the real world by providing opportunities for students to work on activities and projects situated in real-world contexts and aligned with real-world problems. See also problem-based learning and project-based learning.


Independence or freedom, the state of self-governance.  

Authentic Learning

A general model for designing learning activities that are rigorous, in-depth and have value beyond the classroom. The work assigned in authentic learning environments often mirrors the type of work done in the real world.

Blended Learning

Blended learning describes models of learning where a student learns at least in part at a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home  (such as at school) and  at least in part through online delivery with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace; often synonymous with hybrid learning. (Horn and Staker, 2011)


A term used in PK-12 education to mean programming.  It is the process of developing and implementing various sets of instructions to enable a computer to do a certain task. (Source:

Case-Based Learning

A learning method in which students engage in researching real-world or hypothetical case studies in order to develop applied knowledge by confronting possible misconceptions, and solving real-world problems. See also inductive teaching.

Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA)

Congress enacted The Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) in 2000 to address concerns about children's access to obscene or harmful content over the Internet. CIPA imposes certain requirements on schools or libraries that receive discounts for Internet access or internal connections through the E-rate program - a program that makes certain communications services and products more affordable for eligible schools and libraries. In early 2001, the FCC issued rules implementing CIPA and provided updates to those rules in 2011.

Children’s Online Privacy Act (COPPA)

The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) is a law created to protect the privacy of children under 13. The Act was passed by the U.S. Congress in 1998 and took effect in April 2000. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) manages COPPA.

Classroom-focused Professional Development

 Professional development that is specifically focused on the curriculum, instructional practices, and assessments that teachers are learning to implement during instruction and the outcomes that students are expected to master. (Source: A New Vision for Professional Learning. 2017.)

Collaborative Teams 

Teams of educators who share a common goal or problem and commitment to learn, work, and problem solve together. Most effective when it leads to shared responsibility for the success of the members as well as the students represented by the group. (Source: A New Vision for Professional Learning. 2017.)

Collaborative Workspaces

Any tool that allows for collaboration or access to shared documents such as Google Docs or TeamBox

Community of Practice (CoP)

Practitioners, or "experts," in a specific domain of interest (i.e., same profession) who share information and experiences with the group face-to-face or in online communities such as online SIGs (Special Interest Groups), LinkedIn, Twitter feed, etc. so that the members learn from each other and have an opportunity to develop themselves personally and professionally (Source: Lave & Wenger 1991)

Competency-Based Learning

This is a type of learning where the student advances in mastery of a set of competencies at a pace, and often in an order, determined by the student.

Cooperative Learning

Students working together, rather than in competition, to develop a common foundational understanding, either as a class or in small groups. Cooperative learning takes advantage of individuals’ knowledge, skills, and resources for the benefit of the group. See also active learning and collaborative learning.

Course Management System (CMS)

A platform for organizing and managing all digital resources for class discussion, course assignments, homework submission, and course scheduling.

Cyber Safety

The safe and responsible use of information and communication online that maximizes the user's personal safety and minimizes security risks.

Data Culture

An educational environment characterized by the effective use of data and evidence-based reasoning.


Includes using a variety of sources and types of student, educator, and system data to identify learning needs, set goals, plan, assess, and evaluate professional learning, preferably in a cycle of ongoing learning and improvement. (Source: A New Vision for Professional Learning. 2017.)

Data Security

The policies and practices that ensure data are kept safe from corruption and that access is limited and appropriate. Data security helps ensure privacy and protects personally identifiable information. (Source:

Deeper Learning

Prepares students to have a critical understanding and mastery of core academic content enabling them to think critically and solve complex problems, work collaboratively, communicate effectively, incorporate feedback and be self-directed. It enables graduating high school students to be college and career ready and to make maximum use of their knowledge in life and work

Design Thinking

Design thinking is employed to promote creative thinking, teamwork, and student responsibility for learning.

Differentiated Instruction

Differentiation is responsive teaching rather than one size fits all teaching (Tomlinson, 2005).  Teachers proactively plan varied approaches to what students need to learn, how they will learn it, and/or how they will show what they have learned in order to increase the likelihood that each student will learn as much as he or she can, as efficiently as possible (Tomlinson, 2003,

Digital Citizenship

Understanding and practicing appropriate and responsible behavior when using technology.

Digital Footprint

A record of everything an individual does online, including the content he or she uploads. Online information can migrate, persist, and resurface years later.

Digital Instructional Materials

Instructional materials that are created, viewed, distributed, modified, stored on and accessible with computers or other electronic devices.

Digital Learning Environment

The planned interaction of students with digital instructional content, materials, resources, and processes intended to assist them in achieving identified educational goals.

Digital Learning

Any learning facilitated by technology that gives students some element of control over time, place, path and/or pace.  This learning includes instructional content, interactions, data and assessment systems, learning platforms, online courses, adaptive software, personal learning enabling technologies, and student data management systems.

Digital Literacy

The ability to use digital technology, communication tools or networks to locate, evaluate, use and create information; The ability to understand and use information in multiple formats from a wide range of sources when it is presented via computers; A person's ability to perform tasks effectively in a digital environment. Literacy includes the ability to read and interpret media, to reproduce data and images through digital manipulation, and to evaluate and apply new knowledge gained from digital environments. (Source: University Library, University of Illinois,

Digital Learning

Any learning facilitated by technology that gives students some element of control over time, place, path and/or pace. This learning includes instructional content, interactions, data and assessment systems, learning platforms, online courses, adaptive software, personal learning enabling technologies, and student data management systems

Digital Storytelling

The practice of using web-based tools to create and tell stories; they usually contain some mixture of digital images, text, recorded audio narration, video clips and/or music.

Digital Workflow

 A method outlining and facilitating how classwork is assigned, distributed, accessed, worked upon, collected, and submitted in the digital space.

Discovery Learning

An instructional technique in which students are faced with a challenge and arrive at a solution on their own, while teachers provide little to no direction and minimal feedback.

Document Management

Tools for storing, sharing and organizing digital documents such as drop boxes, file storage and organization tools, shared public spaces, etc.


A web-based learning environment that allows instructors and students to interact through the computer without worrying about time or place; capitalizes on the current "anytime, anywhere" notion of learning.

Enriched Virtual Model

This instructional model is a whole-school experience in which within each course students divide their time between attending a brick-and-mortar campus and learning remotely using online delivery of content and instruction.  (Source:  “Is K-12 Blended Learning Disruptive?” Christiansen, Horn, and Staker.)


Increasing all students' access to educational opportunities with a focus on closing achievement gaps and removing barriers students face based on their race, ethnicity, or national origin; sex; sexual orientation or gender identity or expression; disability; English language ability; religion; socioeconomic status; or geographical location.

Experiential Learning

A theory that suggests people learn through inquiry and direct experience with subject matter, followed by critical reflection. See also active learning and authentic activities.

Fabrication Laboratories (FAB Labs)

Fab Labs incorporate technologies like 3D printing and computer-assisted design. They give students hands-on experience with concepts they have learned in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) courses as well as STEAM courses, which integrate the arts.

Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA)

This is federal legislation in the United States that protects the privacy of students' personally identifiable information (PII). FERPA applies to all educational institutions that receive federal funds.


Digital publications that educators and students can update because they are published with open licenses

Flex Model

This instructional model is one in which online learning is the backbone of student learning, even if it directs students to offline activities at times.  Students move on an individually customized, fluid schedule among learning modalities, and the teacher of record is on site.  (Source:  “Is K-12 Blended Learning Disruptive?” Christiansen, Horn, and Staker.)

Flipped Classroom

A course or subject in which students participate in the primary delivery of instruction by online learning off-site in place of traditional homework and then attending the brick-and-mortar school for a face-to-face to session to address the issues and questions stemming from the students' work, to provide opportunity for practice and reinforcement, to provide feedback, and to modify instructional guidance to meet student needs.

Formative Assessment

The low- or no-stakes evaluation of student learning that focuses on providing constructive feedback to support students' self-improvement and mastery. Formative assessment by an expert can model self-assessment and help students monitor their own learning and productivity.

Game-based Learning (GBL)

Students learn through playing games.  (Source: TeachThought,


The application of game-like mechanics to non-game entities to encourage a specific behavior.   (Source: TeachThought,

Hybrid Learning

often used synonymously with blended learning; typically refers to blending multiple modes of learning - combining online and on-site pedagogies and materials within the same classroom.

Information Literacy

A set of abilities requiring individuals to recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information (ACRL 2000)

Information Technologies

Modern information, computer and communication technology products, services, or tools, including the internet, computer devices, and other hardware, software applications, data systems, and other electronic content (including multimedia content) and data storage.


The ability of different information technology systems and software applications to communicate, exchange data, and use the information that has been exchanged.


This type of professional development (JEPD) refers to teacher learning that is grounded in day-to-day teaching practice and is designed to enhance teachers’ content-specific instructional practices with the intent of improving student learning (Darling-Hammond & McLaughlin, 1995; Hirsh, 2009). It can be referred to as “just-in-time” or “real-time” learning because the support occurs during the actual teaching process. (Source: A New Vision for Professional Learning. 2017.)

Learning Community

A group of people (can include students) who share common academic goals and attitudes who meet regularly to share expertise and work collaboratively to improve instruction and the academic performance of students. 

Learning Management System (LMS)

includes content management, communication tools, instructional tools, gradebook and assessment features.


Individuals who use their imagination and resources to design and build new things. Makers are hobbyists, contractors, artists, engineers, students, teachers, tinkerers, cooks, technology enthusiasts, architects, crafters, performers, scientists, writers, etc.

Maker Movement

Nurtures the design-it-yourself, hands-on, do-it-yourself (DIY) development of products such as a written work, computer program, circuit development, movie, robotics, 3D printed objects, etc.  Maker spaces often support this participatory learning with tools, materials, and technologies that may not ordinarily be accessible.

Maker Spaces

Designated areas where an individual or a group (also known as Fab Labs, Hacker Spaces, and Creative 3D Learning Spaces) learns through creative design and building activities.

Massive Open Online Course (MOOC)

A course in which materials and instruction are delivered over the Internet to users around the world; the course is designed to connect instructors with learners interested in a common topic and works best with a large user-base with open content.

 One to One

Programs that provide all students in a school, district, or state with their own laptop, netbook, tablet computer, or other mobile-computing device. One-to-one refers to one computer for every student.

Open Education Resources (OER)

OER are teaching, learning and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and repurposing by others. Open education resources include full courses, course materials, modules, textbooks, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques used to support access to knowledge." -The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation

Online Learning

Instruction takes place via a web-based educational delivery system that includes software to provide a structured learning environment. It can be a teacher-led education that takes place over the Internet, with the teacher and student separated geographically (also cyber learning, e-learning, distance learning).

Performance-based Learning

Activities are completed that require performances as demonstrations of knowledge.

Personalization or Personalized Learning

An approach to learning that is designed around individual learner readiness, strengths, needs and interests. Learners are active participants in setting goals, planning learning paths, tracking progress and determining how learning will be demonstrated. At any point in time, learning objectives, content, method and pacing are likely to vary from learner to learner. A fully personalized environment moves beyond both differentiation and individualization.  

Personally Identifiable Information (PII)

Personally identifiable information (PII) is any data that could potentially identify a specific individual. Any information that can be used to distinguish one person from another and can be used for de-anonymizing anonymous data can be considered PII.


The balance between collection and dissemination of data, technology, and individual’s right to have their personal information kept private. (Source: Data Quality Campaign.

Problem-based Learning

An instructional approach in which students solve a real-world, authentic problem by gathering information and applying research or problem-solving skills.

Project-based Learning

Inquiry-based learning where learning takes place in response to a question or challenge.

Return on Investment (ROI)

Refers to the benefit obtained from an investment of a resource such as time, money, an intervention or a transaction.  It may yield a favorable or unfavorable benefit (return).  In education, the favorable benefit could be greater student learning, higher graduation rates or increased lifetime earnings and career options.

Rotation Model of Blended Learning

Within a given course or subject, students rotate on a fixed schedule or at the teacher’s discretion between learning modalities, at least one of which is online learning.


The policies and practices implemented at the state, district, and school levels to ensure that data are kept safe from corruption and that access is limited and appropriate.

Social Learning

Like Facebook for schools, social learning platforms provide a messaging and content sharing among groups.  Leading platforms manage privacy issues.

Specialized Instruction Support Personnel (school librarians)

Under ESSA, perform a wide range of activities in schools, including a broad array of prevention and intervention services that promote effective teaching and learning and promote student success.  SISP also collaborate with teachers and school staff to ensure that students receive high quality instruction responsive to other diverse academic, physical, social, emotional and mental health needs.

State-led Online Initiatives

are different from state virtual schools in that these initiatives typically offer online tools and resources for schools across the state but do not have a centralized student enrollment or registration system for students in online courses.

State Virtual Schools

are created by legislation or by a state-level agency, and/or administered by a state education agency, and/or funded by a state appropriation or grant for the purpose of providing online learning opportunities across the state.

Student-centered Learning

A wide variety of educational programs, learning experiences, instructional approaches, and academic-support strategies that are intended to address the distinct learning needs, interests, aspirations, or cultural backgrounds of individual students and groups of students.

Summative Assessment

Summative assessments are used to evaluate student learning, skill acquisition, and academic achievement at the conclusion of a defined instructional period—typically at the end of a project, unit, course, semester, program, or school year.

Sustained Professional Development

This involves intentional and focused learning for the period of time required for successful implementation. Learning Forward clarifies that professional development that is sustained lasts more than the term of one day or a short, self-contained workshop. (Source: A New Vision for Professional Learning. 2017.)

Synchronous Online Learning

A real-time learning situation in which immediate two-way communication between instructor and participants is possible.

Synchronous Tools

Communication tools that support real-time communication such as webinars, Skype or chat rooms.

Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)

A financial estimate to determine the direct and indirect costs involved in an overall system.

Transformative Budgeting for Digital Learning

A process by which innovations in schools are accomplished within existing budgets. Three essential strategies characterize transformative budgeting when applied to technology readiness for digital learning.  They are:  1) Alignment of technology expenditures with the goals in the district's strategic plans; 2) A cross-functional budget leadership team that brings together finance, technology, curriculum; and 3) Transformative zero-based budgeting.  (Source:  NJDOE's NJ Digital Learning portal,

Universal Design for Learning

A framework to improve and optimize teaching and learning for all people based on scientific insights into how humans learn. (CAST)

Virtual Charter Schools

Publicly funded, nonsectarian schools that are exempt from many regulations that apply to traditional public schools and that offer some of their classes online.  They began operating in Wisconsin during the 2002-2003 school year.  Pupils typically attend from their homes and communicate with teachers using e-mail, by telephone, or in online discussions.

Virtual Classroom

A place for instructors and students to interact and collaborate in real time (synchronously). Using webcams, chat boxes and class discussion features, it resembles the traditional classroom, except all participants are accessing it remotely over the Internet.

Virtual Resources

Resources that are not physical in nature, such as computer hardware platforms, operating systems, storage devices, computer network resources, electronic databases, and e-books.

Visualization Tools

Tools that support the visual representation of thinking and ideas such as charting, graphing, or concept mapping tools.

Glossary compiled from Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, Wisconsin Digital Learning Collaborative (WDLC), CoSN, SETDA, Canvas, State of New Jersey Department of Education, Clayton Christensen Institute, Common Sense Media,Learning Forward and Future Ready Schools.