Right now many educators are hearing the buzzword of technology integration. 21st century skills is another commonly heard phrase. Schools are feeling the pressure not only to improve test scores and student achievement, but also to improve the use of technology in the classroom. Everyone seems to be touting the latest gadget, application, or web site. Teachers already have a full plate and now they are expected to learn new technologies AND use them effectively in the classroom. In Indiana, education reform has been a hot topic in recent months. The recent release of ISTEP scores is putting Indiana schools under scrutiny once again.
No one can deny that technology has infiltrated almost every aspect of our lives. No one should deny that 21st century skills are going to be essential in every profession. Students will need to leave high school not only with the traditional skills of reading, writing, and arithmetic, but also the 21st century skills and the ability to adapt to the development of new technologies as they come around. According to “Why Integrate Technology into the Curriculum: The Reasons are Many” on edutopia.com, “Effective tech integration must happen across the curriculum in ways that research shows deepen and enhance the learning process.”
Using technology in the curriculum allows students to “acquire and refine their analysis and problem-solving skills as they work individually and in teams to find, process, and synthesize information they’ve found online.” These skills are needed in the workplace, and students can learn those skills as they process and learn the various subjects they are required to learn as they work their way to their diplomas. While in the past Indiana has depended on more traditional manufacturing and agricultural jobs, 21st century skills are infiltrating these industries as well and we need to ensure our students are prepared for the change.
Additionally technology should be a seamless part of the communication system between parents, school, and students. It should also be a part of the environment. Teachers and parents should be able to easily e-mail each other about their students. Grades, attendance, and other “housekeeping” issues should be not only readily accessible to all stakeholders BUT also frequently accessed by those stakeholders. One of the frustrations expressed by several teachers I know is “What’s the use of posting our grades to our online grade system if no one looks at them?”
Committing to creating an environment in which 21st century skills are developed is essential to providing students with the skills they need in the workplace. Parents, educators, and the entire community need to dedicate themselves to creating an environment in which technology is the fish’s water.