This Thanksgiving it’s important to remember what goes right in education and why we should be thankful

thankful-education-thanksgivingAs most in the education arena know, it’s not always gold star stickers and apples on the desk—more often than not it’s the bad education news that gets spread like a wildfire. However, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, the editors of eSchool News thought it would be a good idea to be thankful: to take some time to name what’s good in education.

From recent legislation to national trends, education over the last year has taken major strides worthy of everyone’s pride—changes such as reinventing curriculum to implementing entirely new methods of delivering content for whole schools and districts.

And sure, we’ve heard about the tablet initiatives that face severe problems, or limited funding that poses challenges to ed-tech initiatives, but overall, teachers, administrators, and national stakeholders have never worked harder, and this Thanksgiving we’re thankful we’re in the education business.

What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving? Your answer may be included in one of our holiday features!

(Next page: Things to be thankful for in education)

[In no particular order]

1. eRate’s getting a makeover: Taking a hard look at the shortcomings of the current federal eRate program, using the eRate for school technology is like trying to use a beeper to access the internet—the technology and service available just aren’t enough for what you need to accomplish. With more schools implementing BYOD policies, and more classes requiring the use of the internet for online tools, the eRate isn’t providing enough funding for schools to adequately implement their technology needs. However, this past July, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to open a new rulemaking process aimed at updating and enhancing the eRate. “The sooner we raise the eRate’s annual cap and equip schools with increased bandwidth, the sooner students will reap the benefits of true 21st-century teaching and learning environments,” said Keith Krueger, chief executive officer of the Consortium for School Networking. “This initiative moves our schools in that direction.” (Read: “FCC to revisit eRate” and “eRate survey highlights broadband needs.”)

2. STEM is gaining traction: Almost a decade ago, education leaders began talking about how the U.S. needs to focus more on math and science in order to compete in the global economy. “This is our Sputnik moment!” said pretty much every education stakeholder. Well, talk is fine, but it seems that over the last year, education has been putting thought into action with numerous pieces of legislation, as well as national events, to focus on integrating more STEM into all U.S. classrooms. From aligning state agencies with accountability for STEM scores in student testing, to encouraging Advanced Placement (AP) computer science classes in all high schools, and from holding national events for coding curriculum to proving federal funding for STEM initiatives in schools, 2013 has truly been the year of STEM. Watch out, global economy, nobody throws a comeback party like the us! (Have you seen this amazing commercial [just in time for the holidays[ for girls’ STEM toys?)

3. Common Core is so hot right now: The Common Core is like the cilantro of the cooking world: you either love it or hate it, and those that do like it really, really like it…and vice versa. Whether you think the Common Core will be the answer to all 21st-century learning or not, you have to admit that the collaboration  between states, as well as the effort of almost every school district in the U.S. to try and make learning better for students, is almost more heart-warming than watching A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. From investing time to plan implementation, to the amount of money needed to integrate online testing, schools have their hands full. But it’s the belief by all schools, that with the right tools and a better curriculum, that every student can reach their own success, that is truly something to be thankful for…not just in education, but in a snapshot of what our country can achieve when it wants to.

(Next page: More things we’re thankful for)

4. Digital texts and eBooks save kids’ backs everywhere: Remember the days when you used to have to carry a 30-pound math book, cover all your Language Arts novels in paper or be fined, and never make any marks or take notes in the book because it’s not really yours? We don’t either, because we’ve blocked out the trauma. However, thanks to districts across the country implementing eBook programs in school libraries, students can now highlight inside of their textbooks, hear a voice read aloud key passages in novels, instantly look up the definition of a word online with just the touch of a finger, and never have to worry about taking two Advil every time math class rolls around. And this transition is not easy for schools! From learning new adoption times, to dealing with the technology needed to implement widespread eBook use, and libraries redesigning loaning methods, to curriculum instructors figuring out which eBooks are legitimate, districts are doing everything they can to get student learning into the 21st century. (Read: “Publishers answering the call for digital textbooks.” “Schools confront digital textbook challenges.” “Four keys to success with digital textbooks.” “What to consider for eBook implementation.” “6 ways eBooks can support Common Core.”

5. Flipped learning totally won prom this year: OMG we hate to love hearing about how every teacher is trying out flipped learning. But if you think about it, how brave are teachers for implementing this new method? Not only does flipped learning ask teachers to become tech-savvy enough to understand video recording software, but it also asks students to be responsible enough to not play another level of Uncharted and sit down to patiently watch a lecture-like video. The teacher’s entire way of structuring class is then literally overturned as students come into class ready to do their “homework.” Imagine now that, starting tomorrow, you will work in your home and go to the office for Happy Hour—talk about better office relations! That’s what teachers are doing all across the nation, all to help students learn in a way that’s more natural and fosters better collaboration. Hooray, teachers, you deserve your crown!