The 'correct' answer is, "When it enhances the curriculum outcomes."
Honestly, it's a pretty unfulfilling response. What if the digital tool is having students do something that could just as easily (if not more so in some situations) be done with coloured pens and paper? It's still enhancing their curriculum objectives, but why do it digitally? What makes an Inspiration created brainstorm better than one create on a sheet of paper?
Following on from that, if it's not better, if it's the same curriculum outcome being met, then why bother? Are we just making extra work for ourselves?
Before you all think I really have lost my mind after one of the most insanely intense weeks, this discussion is causing one of the people I am helping work towards their DPL quite a bit of angst (and that may be an understatement). They have a point - if student engagement isn't a good enough reason to use digital tools then why use them over "traditional" activities?
I'm not sure I can reassure this particular person that what they're doing is enough and that it is worth it after they feel gutted over the matter. All of the activities they do could be done with pen and paper, they haven't connected with external experts or students in other contexts.
However, the activities they do has seen students and parents using virtual classrooms to source, contribute and complete various activities (none of which couldn't have been done without digital tools), students are more engaged with their learning, students are getting access to a wider variety of multimedia and ways of demonstrating their knowledge (but the tools aren't vital in developing this). Does this mean their use of digital activities is less valid than my own (as an accreditated DPL holder)? Comparing practice and implementation - I'd say not. We're doing fairly similar things, for similar reasons.
So, help me find an answer for this person struggling to accept this situation. Which of these is an acceptable and/or appropriate reason to use digital tools in classroom activities:
a) These tools allow students to access a wider range of resources/ways of finding and making meaning.When you answer keep in mind only responses about "curriculum" outcomes, ie improved learning, are valid. Can you do it without talking about connecting, accessing and engaging?
b) Digital tools make accessing learning activities flexible, allowing students to access and complete as appropriate to them.
c) Students engage with digital tools and activities in a more positive manner than pen/paper based versions
d) Students are able to contribute to collaborative projects regardless of classroom walls (even within the same school)