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Engaging Environments

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Common Core implementation brings more rigorous standards, new assessments, increased online technical demands and significant shifts in curriculum and instruction. Why, then, should we also ask educators and schools to prioritize social-emotional learning skills?

Preparing students for 21st century success means ensuring they are “College-, Career-, and Contribution-Ready,” as outlined in Social-emotional skills can boost Common Core Implementation, a piece by Maurice Elias in the November 2014 issue of PDK’s Kappan magazine. After all, we want our students to be productive citizens, contributing members in their workplace and family units, and prepared to embrace the diverse global community upon graduation. ...

By Jim Bellanca, for the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21)

Driving Question: What happens when evidence challenges “yes buts” about deeper learning?

My 9th grade English teacher always insisted that I define the key term when introducing a new topic. A driving question dictates the same.  Plus, every time I see a blog post or magazine article about “Deeper Learning,” the first question I’m asked is what that key term means. More often than not, I am asked for examples to clarify the term. On the other hand, I hear “yes… but” that the term “deeper learning” is “old hat” or “everybody does that.” Thus, I thought it might be a good idea to layout the definition, some examples and describe its ingredients before responding to the key “yes, buts…”

Definitions and Descriptions

As I understand it, Deeper Learning is an umbrella term that describes what happens when teachers challenge students to explore, investigate, solve problems, or inquire about topics that they need to understand in depth and in life. Teachers who desire deeper learning results create deeper learning not as an occasional strategy that is nice for some, but as their fundamental approach that is necessarily good for all ...

By Daniel A. Domenech, Executive Director, AASA, The School Superintendents Association

I thought I had died and gone to education heaven. Principal Carolyn Marino greeted me as we were getting off the bus in front of her school by asking me why in the world we were visiting a school in total disarray because of major construction.

“Uh oh,” I thought. “Did somebody make a scheduling error?”

The fear was compounded when we saw a barefoot woman functioning as a crossing guard who turned out to be the assistant principal.

Nevertheless, we followed Carolyn into the school to discover one of the most wonderful learning environments we had ever seen.

Westmere is a K-6 elementary school that is multi-aged and ability grouped with team teaching. In New Zealand, youngsters start school at the age of five—exactly at the age of five, on their birthday, regardless of when the birthday falls ...

By Helen Soulé, Executive Director, Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21)

In countless schools across the US, a new year brings new students. It also brings “wonder” tools, applications and processes. For many educators, this deluge of technology threatens to drown them in an ocean of confusion and frustration. They face hard choices, not only about which tools to purchase, but how to integrate these tools into classroom instruction in a 21st century information and media rich curriculum.

Today, savvy educators realize that technology must be more than an electronic teacher with paperless worksheets. They recognize the transformative power of technology. But transforming instruction to take full advantage of digital power requires significant risk-taking, support and new skill development. Students and teachers must acquire not only the media, information and technology skills, but also the 4Cs (communication, critical thinking, creativity and innovation and collaboration) in order to be able to build a quality 21st century learning environment. ...

While the ‘digital divide’ is well documented, studies show mixed results when trying to document technology’s influence on learning for at-risk students. In part, this is because the digital learning ecosystem is so complex. The academic realities for at-risk children, many of whom live in poverty, are also well known. More than half of all students enrolled in public schools today meet this designation. They are more likely to start school less academically prepared than their peers, fall behind throughout the summer due to learning loss and less likely to have access to technology, including computers, at home. ...

By Wendy Drexler, Chief Innovation Officer, International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE)

The recent release of the 46th Annual PDK/Gallup Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools reveals a high level of public engagement in the issues surrounding public education. Americans are demonstrating greater levels of immersion and increased awareness of efforts to transform learning and teaching, such as Common Core, charter schools and assessment. However, a glaring omission from the national conversation in the poll is any reference to how teachers are leveraging the power of technology to motivate and engage students.

If we were to tour schools across the country, we would see technology in many schools and classrooms. We’d see some students using mobile devices, laptops, interactive whiteboards and tablets to learn in new ways. We’d see many more students using devices to do what they’ve always done, such as take notes and search for information. The push to digital learning started decades ago, so why, when we talk about education, do we want to separate learning and technology? ...

Our frequently stated goal is for all US students to graduate from high school prepared for college and career. The current emphasis on standards-based education reforms reflects our belief that there are things students should know and be able to do that will help them in that endeavor. While one of the main purposes of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was to better identify and support struggling students, the law ultimately resulted in an overemphasis on high-stakes standardized testing and school performance (though fortunately, some policy leaders are beginning to take steps to reduce the emphasis on testing, particularly as many state transition to new academic standards). Ironically, educators, businesses and parents generally agree that test scores are a poor indicator of future success. ...

By Ethan Clark, Arts in Education Manager, National PTA

Monday, September 15, kicks off National Arts in Education Week and National PTA's "Start the Arts" Week (September 15-19). During this week, National PTA encourages schools, families and PTAs to #StartTheArts with arts-themed activities at school and at home, helping to encourage student participation in the arts.

Looking for a way to celebrate?  Try one (or all!) of the following arts activities are based on the 2014-2015 Reflections program theme “The World Would Be a Better Place If…”

Monday - Dance Choreography.

Sample Idea: Choose a time during the school day and invite everyone to dance together. Choose a story based on the theme that is read aloud or song based on the theme and have students create movements phrases that communicate the theme ...

By Eileen Kennedy-Moore, PhD, for the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21)

Self-directed learning often involves teamwork among classmates. Active, cooperative learning activities not only give students the opportunity to learn deeply, they also present opportunities to practice communicating, negotiating, and collaborating. Learning to work with others is an essential life skill, but for many students it doesn’t come easily!

Here are four complaints students commonly voice during group projects and some possible ways to respond:

“I’d rather do it on my own!”

Students who voice this objection don’t understand that working in groups provides important learning opportunities. Nearly every adult job requires collaboration of some sort, so always “going it alone” simply isn’t an option ...

By Tatyana Warrick, for the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21)

What do students need to know and do to be able to thrive in the 21st century? This is the question that P21 has been working in concert with business, education leaders, and policymakers to answer over the last 10 years. Turns out, the skills that students need to succeed in college and workplace – a.k.a. to be college & career ready – are the same ones they need to be 21st century citizens.

Just as the world of work has changed, with the advent of technology and globalization, so has the nature of citizenship. The challenges of being a responsible, effective citizen are more diverse, nuanced and complex than they have been before. Because of this, our understanding of what it means to be a citizen in the 21st century needs to be expanded. Public schools have always played an important part of shaping tomorrow's citizens and safeguarding the ideals of our democracy. That responsibility is just as vital today. In fact, as we discuss standards, assessments and teaching practices, we can't forget that our educators also carry with them the responsibility to impart to students what it means to be a citizen of this nation, this world and online. ...

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