Join the conversation

...about what is working in our public schools.

21st Century Skills

Blog Entries

Hong Kong has one of the world’s richest economies. It also has a high level of income disparity between the rich and the poor – according to the Gini coefficient, higher than that of the United States [and we have been hearing a lot about the disparity of wealth in our country lately]. As a result, it faces one of the same challenges we do in educating students – a gap between the haves and the have-nots.

This week I had the opportunity to attend the Microsoft Partners in Learning Global Forum, which celebrates teachers and schools that effectively use technology. There I met Andy Li, a teacher at Hong Kong’s Salesian School, which is a Catholic school run with government funding.*

The school's goal is to give young, lower-class students an equal chance to learn. And according to Li, one big aspect of that is technology. While rich children in Hong Kong have iPads, Androids and any other technology that they may want, many of his school’s students (age six to twelve) do not have personal computers at home. And in ...

According to a recent report on science education in California, more than half of elementary school principals do NOT believe it is likely that a student receives high-quality science instruction at his or her school.

If anything, I would expect principals to be optimistic about the strength of their schools, so this finding really drives home longstanding concerns about the state of elementary science education.

And it makes sense when one looks at teacher responses to the survey. Forty percent of elementary teachers reported spending less than 60 minutes a week on science instruction. Thirteen percent reported spending less than 30 minutes a week on it.

These findings come as not only California stakeholders but the President, governors across the nation and the business community are all stressing the importance of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education to our nation’s economy and future competitiveness.

If everyone recognizes the importance of it, why isn’t science education better?

The survey offers some explanations around a general theme: The conditions to support high-quality elementary science instruction are rarely in place. Elementary teachers are unprepared to ...

I may be able to afford my connection costs, but staying plugged-in is not cheap; a comparison of Comcast and Verizon shows prices between $69.99 and $100.00 a month, before taxes, for varying internet and cable packages.  For low-income families, prioritizing access comes after purchasing food, making loan payments, buying clothes and filling up the car with gas. Yet in the digital age, it’s becoming evident that children without basic technological skills will be at a disadvantage in the workforce and society. ...

Ann Flynn's picture

Steve Jobs’ edtech legacy

Editor's Note: Our guest blogger today is Ann Flynn, Director of Education Technology and State Association Services at National School Boards Association (NSBA, a member of the Learning First Alliance). This post was originally published on NSBA's School Board News Today.

The death of Apple founder Steve Jobs has triggered an outpouring of worldwide support by individuals touched by the innovations he enabled. One reporter compared Jobs to the Thomas Edison of our generation, and indeed his vision has transformed the way we create, connect, and communicate much as Edison changed the lives of those in the past century. We take the contributions of Edison for granted now, rarely thinking of his innovations with electric lighting or the phonograph as “technology”. They were simply devices, that over time, changed the world. The collection of devices attributed to Jobs’ vision, from the early computers to the latest iPads, are already regarded for what they enable us to do to simplify day-to-day living and learning, rather than just being the newest cool gadget.

His innovations allow adults and children alike to interact with their world in ways only previously imagined in science fiction. Many adults recognize the convenience of having the power of the Internet in the palm of their hand, the ability to manipulate content with the touch of a finger, the option to carry a lifetime of favorite tunes, or download applications to simplify everything from airline schedules to paying for parking meters. Yet some of those same adults have not embraced the idea that these tools can have the same transformational impact on education for today’s youth. Jobs’ Apple was among the earliest technology companies to recognize that their devices could impact learning and ...

This piece was initially written for ARTSBlog as part of their recent blog salon, a collection of 30 posts by arts education leaders in celebration of National Arts in Education Week (September 11-17, 2011). View the original posting here.

Editor's note: Our guest blogger today is Brad Hull. Brad is currently Deputy Executive Director at the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE, a Learning First Alliance member). He holds advanced degrees in both education administration and music, and his experience extends from classical music performer, to college instructor, policy maker, national association manager, education researcher, and administrator. For more, see

I grew up in a small conservative town in Pennsylvania. As a budding piano player, my entire focus was on the great hymns of the faith, playing in church every Sunday.

The first time I had ever memorized a piece of classical music was in preparation for my college entrance auditions.

With this small bit of information about me, you can well imagine the sight of me as a very green, frightened, and shy freshman, entering the halls of the Oberlin Conservatory of Music as a piano major, walking around the three floors of practice rooms hearing incredible music emanating from almost every one. On top of that, due to a lack of attention to technique, I had developed tendonitis the summer before.

My piano teacher was phenomenal and we studied the Chopin Nocturne in D-Flat, op. 27 no. 2 for the entire year. Little did I know that these were lessons not only about Chopin, but also about living and working. Here are a few things that I learned:

1. The best things in life require attention, presence, and care. Don’t take anything for granted. Chopin ended the phrase on the half beat for a reason. Turning this ...

Clearly espousing emphasis in STEM education is all the rage these days—with good reason. However, despite theoretical broad support and frequent political lip service, successful implementation of STEM-fostering programs in public schools has been lacking.

That’s why a current competition funded by the Carnegie Corporation— Partnering for Excellence: Innovations in Science + Technology + Engineering + Math Education on the Changemakers website—sounds like a condonable endeavor. The website notes the lack of progress thus far, saying that “our communities are filled with many of the world’s most talented professionals in these fields. They work in hospitals, universities, and museums; biotech, engineering, and architecture firms; graphic-design and urban-planning studios; hedge funds, banks, and computer-software, gaming, and pharmaceutical companies. They just rarely directly impact our public schools.” ...

A recent article from eSchoolNews highlights partnerships between schools and education publishers to create customized curriculum—one that caters to specific populations by using targeted materials rather than generic plans and texts—to make students’ educational experience more relevant.

The premise: the collaborating schools and districts work with a publisher (both Pearson and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt are active participants) to develop affordable, customized curriculum for any subject that also fit state core and Common Core requirements. The electronic content can be delivered via the web, CD, PowerPoint, or other electronic files, and much of it is also available in print. In addition to readings it includes lesson plans, discussion questions, activities, syllabi, and assessment tools. According to a school or district’s preference, Pearson can modify an existing curriculum to meet local needs, or they can develop curriculum from the ground up with the help of administrators and teachers. ...

A couple months ago, I wrote about an NPR series on efforts by Chicago city and public schools to mitigate violence and vulnerability among low-income students. Yesterday, Edweek featured an article about a new Chicago city-initiative—spearheaded by Mayor Rahm Emmanuel in a partnership with Comcast—to provide computers and internet services at dramatically-reduced prices for the families of low-income students. The goal is in part to combat the increasing educational achievement gap between students with and without computers – a gap that, if left unaddressed, will only increase and further disadvantage our most vulnerable students. In a press conference announcing the initiative, Emmanuel pointed to a map and showed areas where only 15-45% of households have internet service. ...

Clearly we live in an age when customers have great choice in products and services, many of which can be delivered via computer applications. Education authors and former teachers and administrators Chuck Schwahn and Bea McGarvey want to integrate this reality into school learning.

They recently published a new book, Inevitable: Mass Customizing Learning, in which they discuss how schools can alter current outdated practices by utilizing customizing technologies to better meet individualized needs of students. We recently asked the pair some questions about their book and its potential for improving the schools. Check out the description Bea provided of creating a learning plan/schedule under their system at the bottom of the page after the interview.

Public School Insights:  Your book is titled Inevitable: Mass Customized Learning.  What is Mass Customized Learning?

Schwahn/McGarvey: Mass Customized Learning (MCL) is actually a very descriptive label.  From a learner’s perspective, MCL means that “every day when I go to school, I am met at my individual and personal learning level, I am able to learn in my most powerful learning modes, I am motivated to want to learn with content that is of interest to me, I feel a sense of challenge, I am successful, and I look forward to ...

Clearly there are many worthwhile focuses competing for time, funds, and energy within public schools, especially in our current fiscal context. And while it’s often difficult to prioritize these issues, it is increasingly clear that technology is of critical importance in modern society—and thus for schools—and it will only become more important in the future.

To this end, the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) focuses on promoting technology-friendly policies and instructional information for schools. Their advocacy efforts make clear that technology proficiency is critical for students of all demographics and income levels. I want to focus on a few points ISTE makes on its website.

One, we should emphasize technology mastery in teacher preparation. Among crucial players to effect this is the federal government—which should provide funding to ensure that teachers understand current technology and can integrate it into curricula. While there are some great federally-funded programs like Preparing Teachers for Digital Age Learners (PTDAL), there is a shortfall in this emphasis, and we should come up with a ...

Syndicate content