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21st-century learning

The Connect All Schools Initiative has an ambitious goal: To lInk all schools internationally by 2016. The campaign has been months in the making, although it officially launched March 19 at the Celebration of Teaching and Learning, a professional development conference that brought together nearly 10,000 educators. The overarching objective is for schools to reach out to students in other countries to collaborate on projects, discuss global issues, and learn with each other—not simply about each other.

For Michele Hancock, the recently hired superintendent of the Kenosha (Wis.) Unified School District No. 1, her job is not business as usual. When she took the position last summer, she had a vision to transform the district, including questioning all practices, programs and policies to ensure they meet the needs of all students.

Netbooks were the subject of a lot of attention in education about two years ago; many saw these inexpensive, compact versions of laptops as the devices that would finally enable one-to-one computing to become commonplace in K12. Today, even though new devices have appeared—namely, tablets like the iPad—and taken much of the spotlight in the discussion, netbooks remain a viable and inexpensive option for creating a one-to-one program.

Having loved libraries since she was a child, Deputy Superintendent Mary Kolek of New Canaan (Conn.) Public Schools was truly happy when the staff of the New Canaan High School Library Media Center won the 2010 National School Library Program of the Year Award, presented by the American Association of School Librarians. "Everything that our library media center is producing," she says, "is reflective of what we're trying to do as a district: create critical thinkers, problem solvers, creative collaborators."

At education conferences, as well as in professional association reports, as a target area of funding for nonprofit foundations and in the literature of industry vendors, the term, "personalized learning" has taken center stage in an arena already crowded with complex and long-standing issues and concerns.

Why personalized learning? And why now?

Schools across the nation have begun the transition toward cloud computing, and administrators knowledge and ease of use with cloud services ranges from early beginners to the very advanced. A new nonprofit organization, eduCloud, plans to level the playing field by developing a set of best practices for the development of K12 content, tools and assessments hosted in the cloud.


Maryland’s high school assessment (HSA) exams indicated that students in Prince George’s County Public Schools learning STEM subjects were not as prepared for graduation as their statewide counterparts. Just sixty-five percent of first-time takers passed the state’s Biology HSA, indicating a disconnect between the content and the skills and processes portions of the exam. Secondary science instructional specialist Godfrey Rangasammy felt that students were having a difficult time making interdisciplinary connections and interpreting science data they were learning.

Mobile learning—the use of mobile devices for educational purposes by students—is rapidly moving from an experimental initiative by a few innovative districts over the last five years to a broadly accepted concept in K12. The latest research and surveys, results of pilot programs, and analysis of trends in both public education and the broader technology industry all indicate that ubiquitous mobile learning—with mobile devices in every student’s hands and used in every classroom, school and district in the country—is advancing quickly and will arrive faster than many expected.

School librarians took notice when in 2009 Cushing Academy, a private secondary school in Massachusetts, transformed its library from a traditional facility to a digital media center. The library gave away most of its 20,000 books and bought 200 iRiver Story and Kindle e-readers. The school also sold to all of its 445 students a laptop to which the library could deliver databases and Web-based electronic books.