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Online Edge


While a 2013 survey of middle and secondary school teachers by the Pew Research Center confirmed that digital technologies have become central to their teaching and professionalism, the continuing development of the internet, mobile phones and social media technology brings new challenges to K12 districts, and the need for up-to-date professional development. Indeed, standing still with digital technology means you are falling behind, and your staff needs opportunities to evaluate and implement new options. 

At the moment, I’m wondering about the futures of my teen-aged children. It’s not that they’re not smart enough or hard-working enough, or don’t have the personalities to be successful in a career. It’s more about if those careers will still be around in the long-term, and whether or not my children can deal with the consequences if they’re not.

A few months ago, a Chinese family moved into a house down the block from our home in New Jersey. The two kids playing in the front yard looked about the age of our own teenagers, so within a few days we did the neighborly thing and introduced ourselves. The good news? The family seemed genuinely happy to meet us. The bad news? They barely spoke a word of English. There was a lot of smiling and pointing (to our house) and uncomfortable sound-making from both kids and adults, but we didn’t manage to communicate very much in our brief encounter.

Let me start with a couple of interesting “visions” of learning that I’ve read recently.

Every time I get a chance to talk to parents, I ask them this question. “What do you most want your children to get out of their school experience?” The answers, by and large, are not surprising.

When I was a kid, not a week went by that I didn’t make a trip to the big library about a 25-minute drive from where I lived in rural western New Jersey. It was a love/hate thing for my mom; she loved that I loved the books and the learning that went with them, but it wasn’t always the easiest of rides after a long day at the desk of her 9-to-5 job. Still, she rarely said no.

It’s becoming clearer by the minute that, as Web technologies open more and more doors for learners, they also pose more and more challenges to traditional thinking about schools. At the center is figuring how best to prepare students for the vast learning opportunities they have outside of the traditional education system. While the challenges are different for each individual school and district, all will be forced to come to terms with five new realities in the short term.

As we welcome in 2012, let’s do a quick recap of the new state of the world of education, shall we?

Are you an "unlearner?" If not, you need to become one—fast. Of the many important messages articulated by Duke professor Cathy Davidson in her newest book Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn, that may be the one that is most relevant for educational leaders at this moment.

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.