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21st-century learning

To implement blended learning effectively, administrators must gain a thorough understanding of the best tools, training, and processes necessary for teacher and student success. Thesys International offers custom curriculum designed to improve learning outcomes through blended learning. This web seminar, originally broadcast on October 25, 2012, featured Fairmont Preparatory Academy and the Pasadena (Calif.) Unified School District, which are in varying stages of implementing blended learning, with help from Thesys International.

Great Falls Elementary School Principal Wendell Sumter, left, and Chester County Schools Superintendent Agnes Slayman peer over students’ shoulders, excited about a project.

Schools aren’t often called one of the best in the world, but it happened in the rural district of Chester County (S.C.) School District. In October 2012, computing behemoth Microsoft named Chester County’s Great Falls Elementary School a 2012 “Innovative Pathfinder and Mentor School.” The distinction comes from the Microsoft Partners in Learning Program, a 10-year, nearly $500 million commitment to transform K12 education around the world by connecting teachers and school leaders in a community of professional development.

Currently, the way most schools think about reading restricts students to the time and space of borrowing one or two books from a school library or classroom collection at a time. However, to improve reading skills, it is helpful to break down those physical barriers. With its extensive digital library, myON Reader from Capstone Digital provides children and community members with a wealth of books that can be accessed anywhere.

Blended learning, a combination of online and in-person instruction, is gaining traction around the country. For many administrators, however, there remain many questions about what blended learning actually means and how best to implement this model. In this web seminar, originally broadcast on October 24, 2012, John Bailey, executive director of Digital Learning Now!, outlined the trends and key elements of effective blended learning.

Martha Liddell, superintendent of Columbus (Miss.) Municipal School District

Neuroscientist William Jenkins suggests that educators shift the school environment to improve memory and ability to learn.

1. Create a non-stressful environment. And this includes eliminating or reducing bullying. If pupils are angry or frustrated, their “frontal lobe is turned off and executive function skills are not operating,” Jenkins says. When students are comfortable and relaxed, they are more open to learn and retain memory.

For generations, teachers in the early elementary years have urged their young pupils to use their brains. They’re still offering the same encouragement, but nowadays they can know even more about what they’re talking about.

Recent advances in neuroscience—from detailed scans of the brain to ongoing research on teaching methods that increase cognitive development—have ushered in a new era of “brain-based” education.

James Dent knew ST Math would help the students at the charter school he co-founded two years ago because he’d seen its power at other schools. But he had no idea how effective it would be with teachers.

Almost everyone I meet who deals with education technology has the same misconception about learning. We all think that the promise of technology is that students will be able to whiz through more content in a shorter period of time. With adaptive software-based instruction, there’s nothing stopping ‘em, right?

Classrooms, libraries, and labs used to be the only spaces where students spent their time. Wireless connections, laptops and project learning have changed that, and VMDO Architects has explored opportunities in buildings and in the landscape. Above, students at John Handley High School in Winchester (Va.) Public Schools gather in the newly renovated math/science wing.

Staying apace of rapidly evolving technologies and the innovative practices they enable remains a major challenge for school and district leaders concerned with keeping students on the upside of an expanding digital divide. As digital innovations emerge that require continuous upgrading of technological infrastructure, hardware and software, as well as training school personnel, district administrators are being called on to be more creative and strategic than ever.

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