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Blog: Dysart Unified School District Prepares Students for the 21st Century

October 30th, 2017

Part of a blog series celebrating schools recognized by Innovate to Educate, Ed-Tech Awards sponsored by Xirrus.

A few years ago, former Secretary of Education, Richard Riley, said of teachers and schools, “We are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist, using technologies that haven’t been invented, in order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet.”

Children today have never known a world without technology. And they exist in a society where they’ve never had to wait. As a result, the brains of young people today are literally “wired” differently. From sending a message to someone on the other side of the world with the tap of a button, to Google searching any information the mind can think of, those coming of age today are accustomed to things happening instantly. Not only has this caused them to cognitively think differently than people of previous generations, children don’t view the digital world as separate from the physical world—to them it is one in the same.

Dysart Unified School District, the fastest growing school system in Arizona, infuses its curriculum with creativity, innovation, information fluency, communication, and critical thinking for the 21st century. Unlike the focus of a decade ago, these schools are in the middle of a transformation from learning “what” to learning “how.” That’s because kids (and adults) must adapt to new technologies at a rate we’re not used to. Every few years, technology changes rendering that which came before it obsolete.

At Dysart schools, students in 1st grade use iPod devices to record themselves reading aloud so that they can play the recording back and correct themselves. This helps develop language skills more effectively. The devices don’t replace instruction, but they offer teachers different ways to interact and allow students to feel more confident learning things on their own. In 8th grade math class, students use iPads for learning math. By taking the class out of a traditional lecture mode and into a collaborative, interactive environment where students work together to solve equations, they not only learn math skills but also communication skills that help them work together in groups.

Though originally skeptical this technique would be anything more than a novelty to hold student interest, teachers admit that the iPad lessons have become a vital part of the classroom. After ten weeks of using them, teachers found they couldn’t go back to the old way of teaching without losing some of the effectiveness the technology gives them. By working in groups using a device, students take charge in their own learning and comprehend more in 10 questions using this format than with 50 questions the old way.

Other devices are being tested in Dysart classrooms as well. Since these kids are ‘digital natives,’ raised with technology embedded into their lives, the lines between learning and play are already blurred. This deeply rooted acceptance gives kids a unique perspective on how technology can help them innovate for the future. It’s schools like Dysart that will help young minds develop skills that will endure into tomorrow. Xirrus is proud to offer Wi-Fi solutions that keep students connected around the world.

To see New Century Learning in action, watch this video.

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