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Technology and Learning

Blog Entries

By Otha Thornton, President, National PTA

Technology and the Internet have created countless new opportunities for learning. Students can now read about virtually any subject from anywhere and can connect with people and places around the world. Teachers are harnessing the power of the technology to bring curriculum alive and modify instruction to meet the unique needs of every child. Technology is essential for the development of 21st century skills that will help students thrive in their chosen careers.

Technology is everywhere. We text, tweet, shop, learn, play games, plan family vacations and even worship online. Some of us even use technology to track our 10,000 steps each day, like I did during this past summer’s National PTA convention.

Personally, I love technology. I use it extensively at my job. And on my many travels for National PTA, I often use my phone to arrange for transportation, confirm speaking engagements and stay in touch with our state and local units.

But with new gadgets, social media platforms and apps coming out every day, I, like most families, don’t have the time or tech savvy to stay on top of the latest fad.

That’s where good decision-making skills that apply to any digital environment are helpful. ...

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. ...

For nearly three decades I’ve been an advocate for technology’s appropriate (and changing) use in teaching and learning, and during that time I’ve attended more meetings on “integrating” and  “scaling up” technology’s use in schools and classrooms than I can count on. As one might imagine, I’ve become somewhat cynical about the conversation since the themes and challenges remain the same. But despite my cynicism, I came away with some new language to use when discussing school improvement and the use of technology to support it after attending the EdTech Summit, Empowering Educators to Enhance Student Learning in the Digital Era, hosted by the Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands, the LEAD Commission and Common Sense Media earlier this week.

First, and most importantly, the conversation was centered on teaching and learning and on building the human capacity to make change ...

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 Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach, Board Member, International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), and Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Powerful Learning Practice

Millions of educators and others around the world have participated in hundreds of professional development opportunities as part of Connected Educator Month (CEM) the last two years. Originally developed by the U.S. Department of Education and its partners as part of the Connected Educators initiative, Connected Educator Month offers highly distributed, diverse and engaging activities to educators at all levels, with the ultimate goal of getting more educators more connected, spurring collaboration and innovation in the space.

The official kick-off is October 1, but there are many ways that you can get involved today. This year, the U.S. Department of Education is distributing the event's management out to the connected community. Event management groups (American Institutes of Research, Digital Promise, Grunwald Associates and Powerful Learning Practice) are working collectively with the community, and the U.S. Department of Education, to construct a robust program that will get more educators connected ...

By Dr. Valerie C. Bryan, for the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21)

How can technology infused into the curriculum promote the development of skills and attitudes for lifelong, self-directed learning?

In spite of the emphasis on the word “self”, Malcom Knowles (1975) suggested that self-directed learning often involved others – teacher, mentors and even friends as assistants in the learning process. Today in our digital society, with information doubling every 72 hours in an ongoing information explosion, that form of assistance may involve not only individuals that are close at hand, but individuals from around the globe. With the vast knowledge explosion there is not always a “sage on the stage” to direct the learner, but there are helpers available on the side even when they are across an ocean. ...

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? ...

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

Throughout the past year, AASA was deeply involved in the confluence of efforts related to the modernization of the E-Rate program. Created in 1996, the program is administered by the Federal Communications Commission and helps schools and libraries afford their teleconnectivity (Internet).

As the role of connectivity and technology within schools and classrooms changed over the last 18 years, it was time to update the E-Rate program, from one about simple connectivity to one that focuses on adequate connectivity, including broadband and WiFi.

Even before modernization efforts began in earnest a year ago, I was nominated to the Universal Services Administrative Company (which oversees administration of the E-Rate program, among others) to represent the voice of schools and libraries. While this position is apolitical and separate from AASA’s advocacy, it is an excellent vantage point for highlighting the functionality of E-Rate, from application and processing to awardees and distribution. ...

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

AASA, The School Superintendents Association, has been deeply involved in the nearly year-long conversation about modernizing E-Rate, a program that provides schools and libraries with discounts that support affordable telecommunications and Internet connectivity. We made numerous visits to Capitol Hill, the Administration and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to talk through a myriad of proposals. 

The FCC's July 11 vote to adopt the final proposal overlapped with AASA’s Legislative Advocacy Conference. As part of the conference, more than 100 of our members visited Capitol Hill to discuss strengthening E-Rate with policymakers and their staff. I am pleased that this advocacy from school system leaders played a large role in ensuring that the voice of Congress—echoing many of the same concerns AASA had long articulated—resonated in both the FCC and the final vote. ...

By Carolyn Sykora, Senior Director of Standards, International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE)

Common Core State Standards and the first iPad were released. Together, these changed the name of the game in U.S. education.

The Common Core assessments were designed to be taken online, requiring students to be comfortable with using and navigating digital resources. The tablet offered an affordable alternative to computer labs and carts — one that was portable enough for students to use throughout their school day and at home.

Reviewing the current body of research, ISTE found that 1:1 programs were already showing educational gains for students in special education as well as improved reading and writing skills in certain student populations, piquing the attention of decision makers. ...

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