8 ways schools can become truly Future Ready

Advice for districts seeking to become better at digital teaching and learning

future-readyBeing Future Ready is about more than just signing a pledge or attending an event. It’s about taking measurable, sometimes scary, steps toward a digital future that is still very much uncertain, according to speakers at a recent ISTE panel discussion on the topic, “Is Your District Future Ready?

The Future Ready effort, championed by the Department of Education and the Alliance for Excellent Education, hopes to permanently intertwine digital connectivity and learning in schools by getting administrators to think more broadly (and critically) about technology, PD, and the curriculum they use.

The backbone of the project is a short pledge superintendents take confirming their commitment to enlightened digital learning and advocacy (about 2,000 superintendents have signed it so far). There are also related regional summits that delve into how schools and districts can achieve Future Ready aims, such as empowering teachers, closing the digital divide, or supporting community efforts.…Read More

Vocational education is making a comeback

The future is bright as traditional academic institutions and vocational schools are reinventing how students learn

vocational-educationWhen you think about vocational education, you might conjure up a picture of a mechanic or a carpenter. Historically, vocational education, rooted in learning a particular skill set, was positioned in direct contrast with traditional higher-education learning, based primarily on academic theory.

Vocational education often was deemed a second-tier educational choice for those who could not go to college. Today, however, vocational education is making a comeback.

In today’s information economy, demand for specialized, technical skills has become a necessity. With a blurring of lines between skills-based and theory-based education, it’s worth exploring the impact of vocational training on the future of education.…Read More

Inspired vision: Classrooms of the future

You may recall the dramatic leaps in technology of the Seventies — how we hopped from books of “log tables” to slide rules and on to hand-held calculators within a generation, The Telegraph reports. But walk into a classroom today and you’ll probably be equally impressed by the iPads, interactive, touch-screen whiteboards, and Kindles instead of library cards. You might stumble across Year 4 learning to count in Russian or Year 6 studying climate change. But what will the classroom of the future look like? Jo Heywood, headmistress at Heathfield, an all-girls boarding school in Berkshire, believes that in five years we will be more in thrall to IT than ever, albeit using it more effectively…

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Video-based modeling enhances online training for Minn. Teachers

Like many states across the country, Minnesota has implemented strategies to improve mathematics education that include higher standards, greater accountability, and increased access to challenging curricula. Still, the teacher’s role remains central to mathematics reform, particularly for elementary teachers who set the stage for students’ future success in math. Content-specific, practical professional development for these teachers is therefore crucial to the success of these reforms.

Unfortunately, as financial resources shrink, providing professional development to these teachers has become alarmingly cost-prohibitive. Time, funding, and logistics pose significant barriers to all schools, but particularly to those in rural areas where wide disbursement of faculty makes regular face-to-face meetings expensive and inefficient. Even if financial and technical resources were available, often there simply are not enough qualified trainers to reach every teacher in need.

In 2002, Twin Cities Public Television (TPT) brought its digital video expertise into partnership with the Rational Numbers Project (RNP) in an effort to provide teachers and districts with wider, easier, and more cost-effective access to high-quality professional development. The RNP had in its repertory a five-day, face-to-face workshop for mathematics teachers that gave our collaborative project ideal source material on several levels: the workshop’s effectiveness was backed by 20 years of research; its content (focused on increasing student understanding of fractions through the use of hands-on manipulatives) lent itself to online adaptation; and the RNP staff people trained to lead the workshop were few in number but high in demand. …Read More

P21: Rethink testing for future success

Today’s high-stakes tests are inadequate tools for measuring the kinds of skills students will need for success in the global, technology-driven workplace, according to a group of key business and education leaders. The group, called the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21), has issued a new report calling on national and state policy makers to ratchet up efforts to design and implement new assessments that can effectively measure these skills.

P21’s new report, "The Assessment of 21st Century Skills: The Current Landscape," highlights progress in the United States and abroad toward developing the "means to measure complex, higher-order thinking skills." The report is accompanied by a new online tool designed to help assess these skills.

The report also notes that educational institutions around the world are only just beginning to create such assessments. But researchers point to examples they consider representative of the best testing models for information and communication technology (ICT) learning skills.…Read More