Delivering authentic experiences in the classroom and learning how to juggle district data are two wide themes that will monopolize education discussion in the next 12 months.
By Dian Schaffhauser
On a recent day in late October the mayor of Johnsonville was setting up a 125-gallon aquarium, which would eventually host a pair of bala sharks, a catfish, three oscars and live coral for real-life science lessons on saltwater habitats. Anthony Johnson's fourth and fifth graders at Isenberg Elementary School in Salisbury, NC refer to the tank as "Lake Johnsonville."
Bringing the real world into the classroom is something a lot of teachers are trying to do. It's something Johnson specializes in. His students are issued funds when they become residents, then they're expected to pay bills, find work and learn by doing projects. And the mayor is a stickler for keeping schedules, so his students learn how to work with Google calendars to maintain their obligations and appointments. Earlier in the day, a student was waiting at home with his district-issued iPad, ready to connect Johnson to his mom for an online parent-teacher conference. "That kid set a reminder. He knew at 11:10 we needed to be on that call," said Johnson. "When I turned it on, he was there waiting for me."
Project-, problem-, big-picture, or competency-based learning all describe movements afoot to immerse students in authentic experiences, which proponents of PBL have long heralded as the route to deeper learning. The challenge for teachers, of course, is coming up with those engaging lessons.
At Isenberg, Johnson relies on a school subscription to DefinedSTEM, a repository of resources that lays out the basics through videos, then provides experiments and projects — "performance tasks" in DefinedSTEM lingo — for students to follow as they learn new concepts. "Everything is there for the kids," Johnson said. "It's great because I'm not the teacher doing that problem-based learning. I become the facilitator."
Tapping into young people's interests in how the world works is just one ed tech practice we see on the rise. But it's not the only one. This article explores how a handful of trends — adoption of virtual reality, growth of making, a bigger emphasis on computational thinking and continuing concerns about the protection of school data — are evolving in new ways that we believe will dominate education conversations for the rest of the year.