Parents: Focus more on 21st-century skills

Although parents, K-12 students, and educators agree that using technology is essential to learning and student success, parents are largely dissatisfied with the technology skills their children are learning in schools, according to a new analysis of survey data released Oct. 29 by the nonprofit Project Tomorrow and Blackboard Inc.

According to the survey data, only one-third of parents and 40 percent of students in grades 6-12 believe that schools are doing a good job of preparing students for the 21st century. In contrast, more than half of principals surveyed believe they are doing a good job of preparing students.

“The disconnect between educators and parents reveals the need for schools to improve the integration of technology into the learning environment and students’ learning experiences,” said Julie Evans, CEO of Project Tomorrow. “Parents do not feel that schools are effectively preparing students for the jobs of the 21st century, and [they] view technology implementation as essential to student success.”

Parents said they believe teachers need more training and more access to up-to-date technology, and they support the broad adoption of modern, technology-infused approaches to teaching and learning, ranging from online textbooks to tools such as interactive whiteboards, laptops for students, computer projection devices, and technology-based organizational tools.

Pam Young, a parent from Mission Viejo, Calif., said she would like her son’s school to give its students a “world-class” education and help students develop skills that will carry them through to the post-college career world.

“Using technology in school is key to achieving both of these objectives,” Young said. “I think it is essential that our schools provide opportunities for students to use a wide range of new technologies in the classroom, and that the teachers are well trained in how to use technology to increase student achievement.”

“Parents recognize that information literacy is crucial to their children’s success in the 21st-century global economy,” said Jessie Woolley-Wilson, president of Blackboard’s K-12 division. “Today’s students regularly utilize technology tools and resources in many aspects of their lives, yet [many] do not experience the same technology integration in their academic experience.”

Policy makers and educators need to “help bridge the gap between the way students live and the way they learn,” she added.

The findings are included in the report “Learning in the 21st Century: Parents’ Perspectives, Parents’ Priorities,” which examines parent responses to the aspirations of students for technology-enhanced learning environments.

The data come from a new analysis of Project Tomorrow’s 2008 Speak Up project, an annual survey that has collected and reported on the views of more than 335,000 K-12 students, parents, and educators about online education and 21st-century learning in the United States.

The 2009 Speak Up survey has just opened online, Evans said, and students, teachers, parents, and administrators from schools across the country are welcome to participate.

For the first time, the survey will ask students about their interest in teaching careers and will solicit the opinions of pre-service teachers, too, to get a sense of how the next generation of teachers might differ from (or reflect the opinions of) current educators.

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