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21st Century Skills

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By Craig Thibaudeau, Chief External Relations Officer, International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE)

On Thursday (Dec. 11), the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will consider a proposal by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to allocate more funding to support schools across the country that need to modernize the technology infrastructure for digital learning. ISTE applauds Chairman Wheeler for his bold leadership to invest in education. His proposal to make an additional $1.5 billion in E-Rate funds available to schools and libraries to pay for fiber-optic lines, Wi-Fi access points and the cost of internet service is worthy of support by the entire commission.

The vote by the FCC on Thursday goes beyond simply making more funds available for reliable and fast connectivity. A vote for the chairman’s proposal is a vote for digital learning, equity of access and an investment in teachers.

For Loretta Robinson, a superintendent in Miami, Oklahoma, increasing the on-going E-Rate support is about access to digital learning. “Access to high-speed broadband is the key to allowing modern learning and teaching in schools across the country. Miami is a rural community with limitations in curriculum offerings. It is imperative that our students have digital learning available. It is also imperative [that] our teachers have access to online resources for students’ learning, as well as their own,” said Robinson ...

Aaron Bredenkamp currently serves as the dean of students at Westside High School in Omaha, NE, a position he's held for two years. Prior to this role, he worked for five years in a variety of capacities (including mathematics teacher, curriculum developer, technology director and building representative for the local teachers union) at Westside Career Center, an alternative setting. He began his teaching career in Chicago with Teach for America, and he is currently a doctoral candidate with an emphasis on school finance at the University of Nebraska-Omaha.

Mr. Bredenkamp was recently honored as a 2014 PDK Emerging Leader. In 2012, he was named a U.S Department of Education classroom fellow.

He recently took time to offer his insights on issues he cares deeply about, including approaches to school discipline, the importance of providing support to teachers and staff, and the valuable role of personalized learning as a tool for student engagement.

Public School Insights (PSI): First, let’s start with a little of your background. How long have you been dean of students at Westside High School, and where were you before that?

Bredenkamp: This is my second year as the dean of students. Prior to that I taught at Westside’s alternative setting for 5 years. I began my career teaching in alternative education in Chicago, IL, as a part of Teach for America, before returning home to use the skills I learned in TFA to contribute to the community where I was raised.

Public School Insights (PSI): You have a strong commitment to engaging all students. Would you discuss the role of personalized learning in this effort?

Bredenkamp: My commitment to personalized learning began as a teacher in the alternative setting. I quickly learned that students who were previously unsuccessful, and who often had behavioral issues, did not have their educational needs met in the standard academic environment. After I adjusted my own instruction in order to meet their learning needs, behavioral incidents decreased and academic success increased. Quickly these students developed a love of learning. ...

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. ...

Earlier this week, I was fortunate to have an invitation to the White House to attend the President Obama’s announcement of the Future Ready Schools Initiative as part of the administration’s ConnectED program. One hundred school superintendents were also in the audience as part of the first-ever Superintendents’ Summit at the White House, which served as the kickoff to the initiative. During the ceremony the superintendents signed a pledge – on their tablets – that proclaimed their commitment to ensuring their districts were Future Ready with broadband connections to the classroom, digital content for their students, devices to support the curriculum materials and professional development for their teachers so they are supported in using technology effectively for teaching and learning activities.

What this part of the administration’s ConnectED initiative recognizes is that leadership counts when change is happening. I couldn’t agree more, and it’s my hope that all the efforts being put forth by the education leaders in the room and across the country, whether a pledge is signed or not, are successful in bringing innovation supported with appropriate technology to every school and every classroom. The elephant in the room is that these sorts of photo op ceremonies and initiatives around bringing technology into public schooling have been taking place for more than twenty years ...

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 Joan Richardson, Editor-in-Chief, Kappan magazine (PDK International)

Charles Herndon has scoured the fields and the Lake Erie shore along Ohio’s Kelleys Island for most of his 60 years, seeking boulders that carry a story that he can reveal. Stone sculptures litter the outdoor gallery at his home, and dozens more occupy pedestals and floor space in a more traditional albeit cluttered indoor gallery. Touching is allowed as long as visitors remove their shoes to avoid introducing dirt and other particles that might damage his art.

Herndon’s favorite sculpture is one he’s named So Far, No Farther. Glaciers and tugs of the earth and water pushed this piece of gabbro rock so far and no farther, and then Herndon applied his tools and took it, again, so far and no farther. He fell in love with the stone so much that he kept track of how long he worked on it: 333 hours, nearly all of it using simple hand tools and abrasives ...

By Jodie Pozo-Olano, Chief Communications Officer, International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE)

When we talk about change, we often use idioms such as “Rome wasn’t built in a day” or, my personal favorite, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.” The point we are trying to make is that change, while challenging, takes time and requires training.

In no situation is this more apparent than when schools are working to transform education through effective technology integration. Successful change requires time and professional learning opportunities for all stakeholders.

Unfortunately, the one thing educators don’t have enough of is time.

What they do have is access to smart young minds with curious souls that, when motivated and inspired, have an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. They are also tech savvy, and they are thrilled to connect and interact in new and interesting ways using a wide range of apps and devices. The educators charged with teaching today’s learners must have access to professional learning opportunities to help them better leverage their students’ enthusiasm for technology so that they can improve learning and achievement ...

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. ...

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. ...

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