Outfitting Classrooms for 21st Century Skills

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As educators we often talk about 21st Century Learning skills.  It sounds like a bunch of educational jargon.  In laymen’s terms, the learning and innovation to which this refers are those skills that separate students who are prepared for work environments in the 21st Century from those who are not.  We are well into the 21st Century.  We can see that technology is driving change at breakneck speed.  From a global standpoint, it has changed what is needed to be successful in the workplace, and therefore, what we need to do in school to prepare our students.

Have you noticed that technology has wiped out entire categories of jobs?  Think about the jobs that have been replaced by kiosks, ATMs and robotics.  Researchers are suggesting that over the next 25 years, we will see an increase in low-skilled jobs and high-skilled jobs but mid-level jobs will vanish before our eyes.

What does this mean for the children of Little Silver?  It means that the high-skilled jobs of tomorrow are becoming increasingly more competitive.  As the world changes rapidly, we want to ensure that Little Silver students are given the tools to be competitive for acquiring those high-skilled jobs.  21st Century learning is less about “teachers teaching” and more about “learners learning.”  We have excellent teachers and excellent curriculum, but Little Silver needs to place current technology in the hands of students and staff.  If we want our students to think in complex ways and apply their knowledge and skills, we need to give them a variety of tools, especially technology, to enable them to look up information, collaborate using technological tools, and have access to a multitude of online resources.  We have worked to provide one-to-one technology for our students in grades 3-8, but some environments have older netbooks while most grades have newer Chromebooks.  With the support of the EFLS, we can outfit the 8th grade class with new Chromebooks so that students in grades 3-8 will be one-to-one with newer technology.  While 2nd grade is currently at a 2:1 student to Chromebook ratio, 1st grade teachers are seeking additional devices for their classrooms so they will be 2:1 as well.

Not only is it important to place current technology in the hands of students, but in the hands of teachers as well.  The Surface Pro 4 tablet is the educators’ device of choice.  This tablet can replace teachers’ old laptops while providing innovative technology for instructors and students alike.  The Surface Pro 4 enables teachers and their students to draw or write on the screen, and converts handwriting to text.  Their light-weight and wireless display technology allows instructors to freely move around the classroom providing greater classroom management.  As an interactive tool, the Surface Pro 4 tablet also promotes engagement for pupils while at their desks.  When combined with a Smart TV, the Surface Pro 4 completes the total package by allowing for content to be displayed from the device onto a big screen.  Not only does this aid with instruction but also promotes a safer classroom as it removes the need for wires, and the classroom can remain at a proper lighting level due to the brightness of the screen compared to using a projector.  When all these tools are combined, the students and teachers can be more connected which provides for a more flipped classroom that blends current teaching trends with a more “learner” centric approach.

Carolyn M. Kossack, Superintendent

Dan Gaestel, Network Administrator

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