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21st-century learning

Socializing with classmates online gets homework done faster.

I recently asked a group of middle school students to name their favorite use of technology for learning. An eager eighth-grade girl said, “My work has gotten so much better since we started using Facebook to do homework at night in my math class. We’re all online together, so if I have questions, I get them answered while doing my homework, instead of the next day or even later. Sometimes my friends even explain the math better than the teacher, and we send each other links to stuff online.” Wanting to learn more, I asked her which teacher had set up the group.

Education and medicine have seen significant increases in costs, but limited increases in benefits. Interestingly, computerization has been brought to the “back office” (record keeping, accounting, etc.) in both areas, but the front office, where doctors meet patients and where teachers meet students, has seen precious little computerization.

The Whittier Union High School District administrators who organized the Whatever It Takes campaign.

In 1969, a concern with the deep inequity of students’ experiences and opportunities in traditional school systems first drove social studies teacher Rick DuFour to begin advocating for the kind of reforms that would jell into his transformative model, Professional Learning Communities at Work, some 16 years later. The core belief of the PLC at Work model—that all students should have access to the most rigorous curriculum and that all students should learn, was counter to common practices in the era when DuFour taught.

Students at Weller Elementary School use Avatar Kinect for learning.

Students at Steuart W. Weller Elementary School in Ashburn, Va., toss darts, play guitar, dance like rock stars, raft down rapids, and talk to youngsters in Romania. Yet there are no darts, no instruments, no DJs, no white water and no expensive international plane tickets involved. Instead, the students use their arms, legs and body movements to do the activities through a video game system, which also allows for live video chats around the world.

How successful are your Google searches when looking for instructional resources? If your results are subpar, you’re not alone. According to a survey that assessed how educators search for online materials, only 25 percent of educators described their searches as “usually successful.”

In May, the district rolled out a one-of-its-kind school bus that serves as a professional development site for teachers.

Professional development in the Scottsdale (Ariz.) Unified School District just got mobile—and we don’t mean tablets. In May, the district rolled out a one-of-its-kind school bus that serves as a professional development site for teachers to become acquainted with new technology before it’s introduced in the classroom. The purpose of the bus, which was dubbed eCoach, is to create an innovative environment for professional development and to deliver this technology seamlessly across all 31 schools in the district.

TED-Ed, an online content library associated with TED conferences, went live in April with the goal of enhancing classroom lessons and inspiring lifelong learning. It is similar to Khan Academy, but the videos are made by teachers from around the world rather than just one expert. They have received much praise in their first few months.

“The beauty of TED-Ed and the Khan Academy is that they are online libraries available to anyone with an Internet connection anytime and anywhere,” says Logan Smalley, director of TED-Ed.

Facing the twin specter of state and local budget cuts, Falcon School District 49 in Peyton, Colo., has done “some pretty radical things” with technology that have enabled the district to survive without drastic staff cuts, according to Kim McClelland, assistant superintendent and innovation leader for one of various regions in the district. The moves even allowed teachers to receive a 2 percent raise for the 2012-2013 school year.

Debbie Karcher has worked in IT with the Miami-Dade County Public Schools for 27 years. After seventeen years with the district, she worked in the private sector for Amadeus and Motorola, returning in 2001 as CIO. She manages 500 people; 250 technicians are assigned to schools to support students and staff, and the rest are in development, training and security. District Administration often references M-DCPS, one of the nation’s largest districts. We felt it was time to talk with the CIO.

Facilities support services director Timothy Marsh (left) looks on as Newport Harbor High School assistant principal David Martinez (center left) and principal Michael Vossen (middle) receive a check for $10,846.

In late May, Olympics history was made at the refurbished 82-year-old pool at Newport Harbor High School in the Newport-Mesa Unified School District in Orange County, Calif. The U.S. men’s water polo team beat in the 2012 Olympic trials the gold-medal-winning Hungarian national team for the first time in a decade.

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