Is it time to redesign your curriculum for the 21st century learner?

A new framework advocates for carefully curating what students learn. Is it time to rethink your curriculum?

It’s not a stretch to say that today’s educational paradigm is preoccupied with the “how” of learning. Educators are grappling — either by choice or decree — with how to incorporate digital devices, new learning standards, and more collaboration and critical thinking into the already-packed school day. With so much to do, who has time to take a fine-toothed comb through the curriculum or debate whether students still need to know the date of the Battle of Hastings?

But maybe it’s exactly the right time, according to Charles Fadel, the founder of the Center for Curriculum Redesign and a visiting practitioner at Harvard’s Graduate School for Education. Fadel has previously written about 21st century skills and recently turned his attention to the “what” of learning as co-author of a new book, Four-Dimensional Education,” which is less of a teach this, not that manual and more of a framework for exploring the modern competencies students will need in a world where job titles and career choices are changing faster than schools can keep up. Recently, Fadel spoke with us about his framework, the appeal of inter-disciplinary subjects, and whether it’s time to retire the old Capitals of the World quiz once and for all.

What is a 21st century curriculum? What needs to change?…Read More

Teach students to communicate effectively in the Innovation Age

Communication looks different in the Innovation Age compared to the Information Age of yesteryear. Here’s how to help students succeed

PLCs-communitiesEd. note: Innovation In Action is a monthly column from the International Society of Technology in Education focused on exemplary practices in education.

Ready or not, education has entered the “Innovation Age,” where it’s not about what students know but what they can do with what they know. Teachers can prepare students to thrive in the Innovation Age by teaching them to think at three levels: “what,” “so what,” and “now what.” Students might think of it in terms of three overarching questions: What is the basic concept? What is its relevance and what is it related to? And now, what can I do with what I have learned to find solutions to unmet needs?

In the Information Age, the era we are just now emerging from, knowledge was power so educators taught students to access, gather, analyze, and report information. In the Innovation Age there is a glut of information and data are readily generated or at fingertip accessibility. Successful educators in the Innovation Age must empower students by leading them discover their agency, define their purpose, and be open to fresh perspectives.…Read More

6 apps to help parents and teachers communicate

Keep parents in the loop with these tools

Educators know that students’ home lives play an integral role in their academic success. Communication between teachers and parents makes it easier for educators to understand the outside challenges students may deal with, and it helps parents understand how they can better support their children in school.

SimplyCircle
SchoolCircle helps parents stay connected to teachers by organizing school communications in a central dashboard with action items and alerts.

Ringya
Ringya lets users create groups and, within those groups, create subgroups or lists. Users can call, text, email, and chat with individuals, subgroups, or the entire group. Group members are identified by how they’re connected to the user, so a teacher knows who is calling or texting.…Read More

Lenovo, Google launch Project Tango device

Project Tango technology gives a mobile device the ability to navigate the physical world similar to how we do as humans

At the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Lenovo announced the development of the first consumer mobile device with Project Tango in collaboration with Google.

Available in summer 2016, the new smartphone, powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, turns the screen into a magic window that can overlay digital information and objects onto the real world. Lenovo, Google, and Qualcomm Technologies are working closely together to optimize the software and hardware to ensure consumers get the most out of the Project Tango platform.

Google’s Project Tango is a technology platform that uses advanced computer vision, depth sensing, and motion tracking to create on-screen 3D experiences, allowing users to explore their physical environments via their device. Specialized hardware and software combine to let the device react to every movement of the user, when they step forward, backward, or lean side to side. App developers can transform your home into a game level, or create a magic window into virtual and augmented environments. Project Tango-enabled devices can recognize places they’ve been before, like your living room, the office, or public spaces.…Read More

Inside the school that immerses students in Spanish — and technology

A Spanish immersion program makes full use of technology in the classroom

The thought of preparing our students for their 21st century futures conjures up a number of different ideas. There’s imparting the necessary technology skills students will need to thrive in their careers, as well as interpersonal skills such as collaboration and communication and making sure students can function in an increasingly globalized world. On that last point, my school, Shiloh Elementary School in Monroe, N.C., wondered if we were doing enough. Wouldn’t teaching fluency a foreign language be the ultimate means to prepare students for a diverse and multicultural world?

Since 2012, Shiloh has been very proud to have hosted what we call the SPLASH Spanish immersion program. Currently, we have one immersion class—taught full-time in Spanish, with the goal of “immersing” or teaching Spanish to speakers of other languages, like English—in each of our Kindergarten through third grade classrooms. Our school has embraced this wonderful program, and our dedicated teachers have come to us from various Spanish-speaking countries, including Colombia, Venezuela, Honduras, Chile, and Spain through VIF International Education, a company located nearby in Chapel Hill, N.C. that has provided us the means for our immersion program. These classes are effectively preparing our students to become successful, responsible, and confident bilingual students, and the use of technology in each of these immersion classrooms has truly enhanced the curriculum.

Each immersion classroom has some student computers and either a Dell short-throw projector or a Promethean Board. Our students are able to embrace and interact with the technology on a daily basis. Our immersion teachers state that these interactive tools empower them to have successful teaching environments where the bilingual capabilities of their students are fully realized. For example, SPLASH teachers use educational programs and lessons that allow their students to embrace new topics and exciting facts in a 21st Century manner. Teachers view their students as “digital citizens” who are being given the tools each day to interact in the modern world.…Read More

What do we really mean by risk taking in the classroom?

It’s important for students to learn risk taking skills. But how do schools do that without taking some big risks themselves?

Let’s face it. We are of two minds when it comes to how we feel about kids and risk taking. We know that the teenage brain is wired to ignore consequences and to take risks without any adult encouragement, so parents spend a lot of time trying to keep their kids from doing stupid things like drinking and driving or having unprotected sex.

In the classroom, however, risk taking is often viewed as a good thing. We educators tend to praise and encourage students to take gambles and learn from their mistakes. At least, that’s what we say.

This idea can raise a few hackles and more than a few questions. What characterizes a “good risk?” How can we create a culture of risk taking in our classrooms? And what might we currently be doing that discourages risk taking in our students?…Read More

3 ways teachers can make learning more interactive

From gamification to crowdsourcing, improve learning with these interactive elements

interactive-classroomToday’s students are a uniquely interactive group. Most of the 80 million Americans who are part of the millennial generation—a group that comprises the lion’s share of today’s student population—can’t remember a time when they didn’t have instant access to the internet.  Most of them grew up playing video games, and ever since they can remember, they’ve been in constant contact with friends via social media platforms and text messages. A growing number of today’s instructors also fall into this group.

Educators who want to reach students who favor interactive communication know that integrating digital tools into their lesson plans can be an effective strategy, and many have incorporated technology tools into the classroom in one way or another. But to make a real difference, educators have to integrate technology in a meaningful way. It’s not sufficient to just use social media platforms as an alternate communication venue or post schedules on a class Facebook page.

So how can educators use technology in a more meaningful way? Here are three methods educators are successfully using to connect with a new generation of students in the classroom.…Read More

Why overwhelmed educators should stick to these simple tech tools

Tech is shifting faster than teacher training can keep up. The solution is to keep it simple

simple-overhelmed-teacherI recently had the pleasure of spending a few hours in a friend’s classroom where I introduced her students to technology applications that would engage them in “showing what they know” at different points in their learning. Having worked with this teacher for many years, I had always considered her a technology pioneer.

So it came as something of a surprise when, planning for our time together, she confided in me that she no longer felt empowered by technology so much as overwhelmed by it. Looking back, it’s easy to see how this could have happened.

When our new wireless network went live early last year, the choice of which applications and technologies to use was no longer limited by bandwidth issues. Our Board of Education then announced we were now a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) district, but did not provide the professional development time to support this initiative. My friend was overwhelmed by the plethora of tools available. She needed guidance on selection and advice in where the potholes were in introducing these tools to her students. She knew enough to know there are always “snags” when technology gets introduced, but no longer felt confident in navigating those snags.…Read More

How a GoPro Got My Students Excited to Learn

One teacher recounts the transformation in learning, collaboration, and creativity he’s seen after adding a GoProgopro-racecar

Rewind to May 2007. . .

I had not planned to purchase a GoPro while out shopping. However, it was on sale, I had a coupon, two gift cards, and two weeks in the Florida Keys was just a moon phase away. Needless to say the summer spent fishing, snorkeling, and kayaking in the Keys yielded very few incredible pictures. I had purchased the Digital Hero 3, the first GoPro with sound. After that experience my GoPro stayed packed up with all my kayak gear and did not see the light of day too often.

Fast forward to August 2013 . . .    …Read More