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How Should Schools be Using Tech to Teach?

How Should Schools be Using Tech to Teach?

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Updated on Jul 31, 2013

Classroom technology in the 21st Century extends far beyond calculators and overhead projectors. Today’s kids use the internet to track down information and share their research with kids across the world via blogs and wikis. In some ways, teachers are just keeping up with their students when it comes to using the internet: the PEW Internet & American Life Project found that 93 percent of teens between the age of 12 and 17 are online, and 89 percent of teens say that technology (the Internet, cell phones, etc) makes their lives easier.

At home, kids use the Internet to find information and communicate with friends. A 2007 National School Boards Association study found that 96 percent of students who have access to the Internet have used social networking (blogging, instant messaging, and online communities). What are they talking about? The answer may surprise you. The majority (59 percent) talk about education topics, from schoolwork to college applications.

But being internet-savvy isn’t the only skill that our kids are going to need to succeed in the 21st Century. “Problems are getting so much more complex,” says Ken Kay, president of the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, who says that teaching kids “how to analyze and solve problems is the most important thing we can do.” Along with problem solving, 21st skills include collaborating, synthesizing information, communicating, having a strong work ethic, and being aware of global cultures and perspectives, all while using technology.

So far, technology education isn’t making the grade. Today’s kids are familiar with text messaging, email, Google, and Facebook, but can they find information online, use it to create a database, and solve a real world problem? And how much do they really know about global perspectives? 

Parents want to help their kids develop real-world skills, from technology to global awareness, but where to start? Here are four model projects that taking tech in schools to a whole new level:

Studycast: Eric Langhorst, an 8th grade teacher at South Valley Junior High in Liberty, MO uses podcasts to help his students study for tests. Langhorst records himself talking through a review of the test, then posts it on his web page and on iTunes for his students to download (he also burns a few copies onto a CD). Check out this week's podcast.

Guerilla Season Blog: Langhorst’s class also blogs online about the historical novel Guerilla Season. The blog, says Langhorst, “allows students to create content and publish it. [After all] students aren’t just fed information anymore, it’s what they do with it.” Read Langhorst’s blog here.

FlatClassroom: Vicki Davis, a teacher at Westwood School in Camilla, GA, started FlatClassroom to give her students skills that she knows they’ll need when they graduate: technology, communication, and global awareness. The project uses a wiki to collaborate with other schools around the world on research projects and publish their findings online. Visit the project here.

Social Networking: Kelly Tenkely, computer teacher at Cherry Hills Christian School in Highlands Ranch, CO use Imbee.com to teach her young students how to use social networking sites safely. Imbee.com is a virtual world for kids between the ages of seven and twelve (created by a parent). It has personal pages, blogs, and groups set up by National Geographic and Build-A-Bear, with all the safety features built-in. Use social networking with your students at www.imbee.com or www.ning.com

Learn More About Online Teaching:

The Partnership for 21st Century Skills has information about what 21st Century skills are and how to teach them.

Join the National School Boards Association Technology Leadership Network for information about tech in education:

The Pew & American Life Project has information about how teens and adults use the internet:

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