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21st-century learning

Students are doing less hand-raising and more clicking as online classes become increasingly popular in K12 instruction, both in combination with brick-and-mortar classrooms and in independent full-time virtual schools. “It’s exploding,” says Barbara Treacy, director of EdTech Leaders Online, a program of the nonprofit Education Development Center that works with educational organizations to develop online courses and professional development.

So long, clunky desks. No more one-size fits all. Instead, cumbersome one piece desk-chair combos are slowly disappearing from classrooms. Institutional-style, heavy wooden desks dominated the school furniture scene for most of the past 100 years. However, as instruction shifts to a learner-centric, individualized approach with a focus on small group activities, heavy furniture that small hands cannot move on their own have become less desirable, according to John Musso, executive director for the Association of School Business Offcials (ASBO). 

Just 20 miles from Manhattan sits the community of Roslyn Heights, N.Y., where its 3,300 students are among the best and brightest, consistently scoring above county, state, and national averages on standardized tests and College Board exams. In the last few years, the Roslyn (N.Y.) Public Schools implemented the latest technology and exposed students to world culture. 

A great privilege early in my career was editing the original words of the Swiss developmental psychologist and philosopher, Jean Piaget, for one of his few articles directed to teachers. As a doctoral student, I had been captivated by Piaget’s theories that children pass through four major intellectual development stages, which influenced the federallyfunded “lab-centered” curriculum programs of the era—particularly in science and mat —and I later wrote chapters on Piagetian psychology for three texts.

• Have regular classroom teachers collaborate with ESL counterparts to create lessons that help ESL students master the learning required by state standards.

• Focus in the classroom on project-based learning and small-group projects that call for the development of English language in areas from science to social studies.

• Provide aides in ESL classrooms who speak the most frequently occurring native languages of students in the district.

The University of Rhode Island (URI) has an ESL certification program that is growing like “mad,” with 90 masters candidates enrolled, according to Nancy Cloud, the coordinator for the program that leads to a masters’ degree in education and ESL certification.

ESL certification is so valuable in K12 education now because the demands for ESL teachers are growing while regular classroom positions are being eliminated in some districts, she adds.

Minneapolis Public Schools

English as a Second Language programs have historically focused on Spanish-speaking students, but the ESL map is undergoing a dramatic transformation that is challenging K12 schools to cope with a burgeoning number of different native languages—more than 100 in some locations—as new immigrants arrive in districts across the country.


As districts transition into the digital age, technology certification programs are growing in number to meet the needs of tech-savvy students.

As tablet integration becomes increasingly prominent in U.S. classrooms, administrators face challenges preparing district infrastructures, teachers, students and parents for a shift to digital learning.

Here are some tips from two district leaders who have successfully undergone the change to those considering a move to tablets.