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21st-century learning

The Common Core State Standards are bringing some changes to curricula across the country—but not just in the classroom. School librarians are preparing for the shift and its new emphasis on 21st-century skills including information literacy, primary resources, independent thinking and complex texts. The New York City Department of Education—the nation's largest school system—is relying on its library staff to implement these standards in the coming years.

07/2011

Some technology experts, including Will Richardson, a well-known social media blogger, say that social media has some value right now, but it's just a first step. He believes that schools in America are still way behind the business world, including journalism, in terms of how social media is used for learning. "We're not yet at the point where it's really altering the landscape, and much of that is because the assessments just want to keep measuring information and knowledge, not learning and skills," says Richardson, who is also a columnist for District Administration.

Girl doing chemistry exercise

Three years ago, sophomore environmental science students at the Science Leadership Academy (SLA) in Philadelphia needed a problem to solve. But they weren't just looking for any old problem; they wanted a big one, a real-life one that could make a difference in the world—one that would challenge them to be creative, to work in teams, to think and plan and build, and, by the way, to allow them to meet all of the state and local standards for the class.

I like the name of Maine's 2002 pioneering one-to-one program, the Maine Learning Technology Initiative (MLTI). It has the word "learning" in it, and that's exactly what it takes from many players to implement the approximately 3,000 one-to-one programs across the nation and to make them successful.

Mark Edwards compares the start of school to Christmas. That's when the superintendent of the Mooresville (N.C.) Graded School District, north of Charlotte, says the district invites students in grades 4 through 12 to pick up a gift: their own laptop for the academic year.

"It's extremely exciting to see the look on students' faces," Edwards says. "Last year I heard numerous students say—a week before school starts—'I wish school was starting tomorrow.' I thought, 'I've never heard that before.'"

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."

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