This year is expected to bring rapid change to education, particularly with the anticipated implementation of Common Core State Standards, Annie Murphy Paul writes in this blog post. The new year also is expected to include better use of education technology, as well as a dose of reality regarding what technology can — and cannot do — for students, she writes. It’s also likely, she writes, that educators will be discussing effective ways to use resources to educate students outside of the classroom.
Here are three big stories concerning education and learning that you’ll be hearing about in the year ahead—and some pointers on how to think about them.
1. SMART USE OF TECH.
Computers have been present in classrooms for a number of years now, of course, and in 2013 excitement about their potential to transform education will keep running high. Bulky desktop models will continue to give way to mobile devices like laptops, tablets, and even cell phones, and more schools will be experimenting with “BYOD”—telling students to “bring your own devices” to school. Innovative teachers and administrators will find ever more ways to integrate technology into instruction—from simulating science experiments on the screen, to turning boring math and vocabulary drills into enjoyable games, to promoting online collaboration among students on history and language-arts projects.
At the same time, the runaway enthusiasm about edtech will begin to be tempered, I predict, by a more realistic sense of what computers can do for students, and what they can’t. Young people will still need to interact with classmates and teachers face to face. They will still need physical activityand hands-on experience with physical objects, whether in the art room or the science lab. And given all the time that kids spend staring at screens in school and out, they will still need plenty of time to be un-networked and unplugged.
2. ADVANCE OF THE COMMON CORE.
Forty-five states have now adopted the Common Core State Standards, a set of academic expectations for what students in each grade should be learning in their math and English classes. The Common Core initiative has been controversial from the start, and it is sure to remain so as the messy business of implementing the standards in real classrooms proceeds during 2013. Part of the reason the standards have occasioned so much debate is that the content that’s taught in American classrooms has historically been left up to local control.
But consider these three reasons why nationwide guidelines are a good idea: 1) Americans need to be able to move around. Millions of children change schools each year, and a consistent set of expectations will help ensure that they won’t fall behind or become confused or bored because of the move. 2) Americans need to be able to talk to one another. We’re a rich and varied country, and we’re sure to stay that way in 2013 and beyond. But having a “common core” of knowledge that we all share will ease communication and break down barriers. 3) Americans need to compete with the rest of the world. School systems in countries regularly outscore the U.S. on international tests, such as those in Singapore and Finland, have national curricula that build knowledge over time in a logical and systematic fashion. In order to compete in the global economy, American schools need the same.