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Technology and Learning

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As the year draws to a close and the fate of the carefully crafted Common Core State Standards (CCSS) seems tenuous while ill-informed policymakers at both ends of the political spectrum air their complaints, I’m reminded of what really matters to ensure student success in our public schools: great teaching and committed professionals.

This was confirmed for me recently when I had the opportunity to be a “student” in DC Public Schools social studies teacher Tanesha Dixon’s demonstration classroom on Capitol Hill, where she and other master educators were staging digital classroom simulations in a meeting sponsored by the National Coalition for Technology in Education and Training (NCTET) to show how new technology tools can be used effectively in the classroom. Certainly the iPads Ms Dixon was using in her classroom provided important support for her lesson, but the real artistry on display was Ms. Dixon’s passion for her subject and creativity in engaging students to incorporate a spirit of inquiry put to use in a wealth of web based resources.

For her demonstration, Ms. Dixon used Discovery Education digital resources, but she acknowledged that the web contains an almost endless supply of rich information, much of it in the public domain and provided by such institutions as the Library of Congress, the ...

By Mary Pat King, Director of Programs and Partnerships, National PTA

Earlier today, I conducted a focus group of one – my son – a kindergartener who wants to be a teacher when he grows up. Why? Because “I love teachers.” While his favorite time in the school day is “Let’s Move” time on the patio, he also loves science, math, computer time and music. Why? Through science, “If you don’t know how something works, you can learn.” For math it’s simple, “I like to solve problems.” On the computer, “I can play games;” games that he doesn’t realize are educational and enrich the lessons he learned earlier in the day. And music, well that’s no surprise as he and his friends get together regularly for “Crazy Band” practice.

Many people – including teachers – have told me, “Your son is going to be an engineer.” I can see that – he is constantly building things using all sorts of random household items and masking tape – lots of masking tape. But I can also see him becoming a science teacher, a software developer, or maybe even a rockstar.  After all, he’s in kindergarten and we daydream about every possibility.

But one thing is for sure – my son is excited by STEM subjects, as well as the arts. To support his success in school and life, we plan to nurture both, seeking opportunities for him to exercise his left and right brain. Already, our teachers have suggested we ...

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

Dana Elementary School is surrounded by apple orchards in the rural community of Hendersonville, North Carolina. Many of the families work in agriculture, and eighty percent of the students attending Dana qualify for free or reduced lunch.  “Having those demographics has never stopped us from wanting to have high expectations for our students,” says Principal Kelly Schofield. “And we really just have always felt…that if any students in the state can do it, then so can ours, and we can achieve.  Our goal has always been to find the framework, find the curriculum, find the instructional strategies that work for our population of students.”

For Schofield and her colleagues, the skills, content and teaching strategies outlined in the Framework for 21st Century Learning are essential to their shared success. “It’s the way we live in school everyday,” she says. “It is our culture; it’s how we talk, it’s how we act.” For students like Tom Walter, this framework translates into collaborative, project-based learning enhanced by technology—like a recent social studies class in which he built a documentary film project on immigration with a team of his fellow fifth graders. For teachers ...

Updated August 12, 2013

In a country where we expect free WiFi with our coffee, why shouldn't we have it in our schools?”

So asked President Barack Obama last week in announcing ConnectED, his plan for connecting all schools to the digital age. Acknowledging that success – for individual students, communities and the nation as a whole – in the 21st century is being driven by new technologies, the initiative aims to connect 99% of America’s students to high-speed internet within the next five years.

To meet this goal, President Obama is calling on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to “modernize and leverage its existing E-Rate program.” E-rate, created by Congress in 1996 and funded through a surcharge on telephone bills, provides discounts to assist schools and libraries in obtaining communications services, including Internet access. Currently, demand for the program much exceeds money available ...

By Brian Lewis, CEO, International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE)

More than three decades since the first computers began to appear in schools around the country, we still seem to be engaged in a national conversation about whether or not they belong there – whether the investments that our communities have made in education technology can be linked to improved student outcomes.

Our collective truth is that today’s students were born into a world where technology has been a part of their lives from the very begin­ning. As preschoolers, they pick up their parents’ smartphones and seem to intuitively know how to play a game. Ask a first-grader who is a baseball fan to find information on when his favorite team, the Chicago Cubs, will be playing next, and there is every possibility he will tell you to go to www.Cubs.com. Ask a high school freshman if there should be technology in schools and you will likely get that look that only a 15-year-old can give, telling you that you are “clueless.”

These same students are graduating into a world where they are competing for jobs on a global level – not only on a local, state, or national level. The days of the reading, writing, and arithmetic being alone at the core of schoolwork are far in the past. As the new Common Core State Standards recognize, students need to master the ...

Today the Learning First Alliance (LFA) and Grunwald Associates, with the support of AT&T, are releasing a report, Living and Learning with Mobile Devices, that documents survey results of parents’ attitudes and perceptions of the value of mobile devices as learning tools for their school-aged children.  Not surprisingly, parent perceptions are influenced by the level of personal usage they have with mobile technology and, as parental usage goes up, comfort level with the notion of their children’s use of this technology also increases. 

The report is an important reflection of just how far we’ve come in the use of and advocacy for appropriate use of technology in schools and classrooms.  As someone who has spent the past 25 years advocating for innovation in teaching and learning supported with technology and expanded connectivity, my view is that we’re at an important crossroads in transforming both the formal and informal learning spaces with new, less expensive, and more powerful technical devices.  As the survey found, more than 50 percent of high school students take a cell phone to school with them every day, and 24 percent of those surveyed use those cell phones in ...

Ten years ago, I attended one professional development session on using e-mail and another on using PowerPoint. These are both tools I learned about in high school and used extensively in college. I was annoyed at these wastes of my time, but I was also shocked at how many of my colleagues did not know the basics.

In the past, teachers needed training in the mechanics of e-mail and PowerPoint, just like today many need training in the basics of social media and tablet use. But these trainings are not necessary for everyone. Most of those entering the teaching force today never knew life without a computer. They grew up with e-mail, Facebook and YouTube. They operate easily on PCs, Macs, tablets and phones, and they adapt quickly to technological changes.

Young teachers instinctively incorporate ICT (information and communications technology, for those not familiar with the lingo) into their work to the extent that they are often hindered by school, district and/or state policies around it. But their ability to use new technologies is useless if ...

New technologies are dramatically changing how people learn. Unfortunately, many schools are moving far too slowly to adopt them, with classrooms today organized in much the same way they were in the 1950s. We in public education must do a better job incorporating new technologies into teaching and learning to prepare students for success in the changing world that awaits them.

But what does it look like when schools step into the digital age? And what can school leaders do to ensure students are learning in new ways?

We recently had the opportunity to hear about these issues from an expert, Ryan Imbriale, Principal of Patapsco High School and Center for the Arts in Baltimore, one of NASSP’s 2013 Digital Principals and a PDK 2013 Emerging Leader. In an e-mail interview, he shared his thoughts on how school leaders can promote digital learning and the challenges they face in doing so, as well as specific examples of what it looks like in his building.

Public School Insights (PSI): Before we discuss your school in particular, I want to ask a couple overarching questions. You were recently named one of NASSP’s 2013 Digital Principals. What exactly is a “digital principal”?

Imbriale: Well, a digital principal is actually real – it’s not some sort of virtual person.  That’s been the running joke at my school since my staff found out I won the award.  The award is designed to recognize principals who exhibit bold, creative leadership with new technologies.

PSI: In general, what is the role of a school leader in digital learning?

Imbriale: The school leader must be willing to fostering an environment of innovation, exploration, experimentation, and trial and error.  When a school’s culture is student-centered and driven by a collaborative spirit it’s really amazing what can be accomplished.  But I will also say that the leader must also be a user.  It’s impossible to get buy-in if you are not modeling effective use.  I try hard to continually model my own personal and professional use of technology, whether it’s social media or flipping professional development.

PSI: Now tell me about your school. What is your vision for it?

Imbriale: My vision for Patapsco High School and Center for the Arts is to provide students with quality comprehensive educational experiences that enable them to develop the productive habits of life-long learners.  Our students will be able to think critically and creatively, learn independently and in collaboration with others, value ethical behavior, and develop skills needed to function in a technologically changing and ...

By: Mary Ann Wolf, PhD

 Editor’s Note: Our guest blogger today is Mary Ann Wolf. She is the CEO for Wolf Ed and a digital learning consultant for the Alliance for Excellent Education.

Birthdays and anniversaries provide us with a chance or even an excuse to pause and appreciate people in our lives.  Unfortunately, few opportunities exist, especially beyond the school community, to recognize and take note of the excellent work and dedication of millions of educators and administrators across our country.  In a time when news about education often points to the failings of the system and the students who are not meeting the goals and standards, Digital Learning Day, on February 6, 2013, provides an opportunity to pause and consider the extraordinary efforts of educators, the bold choices and visions of administrators, and the exciting creations and growth of our students.  ...

The arrival of 2013 brings us one year closer to the rollout of Common Core State Standard (CCSS) assessments, scheduled for 2014-15. As the deadline approaches, the complexities surrounding implementation of the standards and their accompanying assessments come into sharper focus. The issues listed below are hardly exhaustive, but they begin to convey the challenges of implementation facing our nation’s schools and districts. ...

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