Besides sponsoring National Public Radio, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation works toward promoting understanding of how technology is affecting children and society, among other important issues. The foundation’s latest study on the subject was released in November and emphasizes the positive impact of digital media use—a subject often misunderstood by educators and parents alike. While many adults feel that time spent online contributes only to bad grammar, Internet slang and less time outdoors, the study concludes that, among other things, youth are successfully developing important social and technical skills by going online. By networking with others in different locales, students have the ability to pursue interests that might not be valued by their local peer groups. New learning opportunities are everywhere. Connie Yowell, director of education at the MacArthur Foundation, says that the report “concludes that learning today is becoming increasingly peer-based and networked, and this is important to consider as we begin to reimagine education in the 21st century.” The foundation’s team of researchers conducted more than 800 interviews with youths and their parents and spent more than 5,000 hours observing teens on sites such as Facebook, MySpace and YouTube.
The irony is how the traditional education community is still afraid of exploiting these new technologies rather than embracing them as a way of teaching on kids’ terms using something that they are “into.” Enter Will Richardson, DA ’s Online Edge columnist, who has preached this gospel for seven years, and our newest columnists, Cathleen Norris and Elliot Soloway. Norris, a Regents Professor at the University of North Texas, and Soloway, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor at the University of Michigan, are co-founders of GoKnow, a company that provides mobile technological solutions for K12 education. On a bimonthly basis beginning with this issue, they’ll write about “tech disruptions” (an important buzzword to use if it isn’t already part of your vocabulary) and their implications for K12 educators. They’ll keep you informed about how educational technologies are changing so that your district can be in the forefront of this movement.
Disruptions lead to growth, and social studies curriculum is another area ripe for change. In “Social Studies for the 21st Century” we fill you in on a new map that transcends the “same old” and focuses on real-world topics with creativity and innovation. The 21st Century Skills and Social Studies Map is published jointly by the National Council for the Social Studies and the Partnership for 21st Century Skills. And among many other topics we cover this issue is “District Web Site Essentials.” Laura Bona describes the function and possibilities of these sites, as well as the lessons she has learned from critiquing numerous sites in the “How Well Does This Web Site Work?” section of the magazine. See if your Web site is up to par.
Judy Faust Hartnett, Editor