District 28 sees 21st century learning as a key component to enhancing the student-teacher learning experience in coming years.
Superintendent Dr. Larry Hewitt provided an update at the board’s regular meeting on Tuesday, March 22, addressing the school district’s priorities with respect to 21st century learning.
Because of the pervasiveness of technology, Hewitt said it makes sense that current and future educators won’t turn back to older methods and ways of carrying out various tasks.
“When we all went to school, we did research the old-fashioned way and we looked at the encyclopedia,” he said. “Now, you can type in anything you want and you can probably find the answer within the seconds. Time before Google, there’s a different educational system that you needed then from what you need now.”
Hewitt said it’s not only Google that’s changed the students’ learning experience, but it is probably the most widely known change there is, raising questions that are worth pondering.
“[These priorities I am outlining here are] a little about more of a philosophy for technology than anything else,” he said. “It’s not really a philosophy for technology, it’s a philosophy of learning and how we engage kids now.”
Many teachers and school officials find themselves concerned about needing to keep up with all the technological advancements arising. Hewitt doesn’t view the technological aspect of schooling as most important when it comes to 21st century learning.
“Our primary focus should be on the second piece, which is ‘What is it that kids need in order to be successful in a 21st century that is just going to be continuously changing and more technology is going to be involved in that?’” he said. “Simply put, it’s not about hardware, right? It’s about ‘headware,’ it’s about thinking, it’s about engaging.”
When thinking about 21st century learning, Hewitt said schools have to be smart about what they want kids to know, look beyond the basic curriculum that is taught and think about the whole child. That’s where the role of the teacher is changing.
“We’re transitioning to someone who is facilitating learning whose more like an orchestra director,” he said. “The orchestra director is not playing each instrument for every child, but they teach and they try to orchestrate an environment so that our kids can be successful, learn and grow.”
Hewitt pointed out how the Global Digital Citizenship Foundation released a report called “Getting It Right”, explaining how school districts sometimes fail by spending too much time debating about the necessity and use of equipment and network design when they should focus on learning.
In response to what so many researchers are presenting, Hewitt added, it’s also important to note how “you can’t teach 21st century skills without the technology.”
“What I always wonder is the research going deep enough into how we learn or are we still at the surface level information about achievement is a test score?” he said. “I think that’s the easiest way to get the research done. We still quite don’t know how to measure some of the other things that we all know are important in life, but trying to get them to a number is very, very difficult.”
Hewitt told The Tower later that the process of updating the school district’s priorities in terms of 21st century learning is made possible, in part, by identifying skills that are necessary for students.
“Our curriculum has some of these skills built into them already,” he said. “It’s a matter of pulling them through the curriculum. As we continue to roll through the curriculum process, it is important to be more mindful of how 21st century learning skills are introduced into each learning area.”
In an effort to monitor and update 21st century learning priorities, all curriculums must be reviewed by the school district every five to six years.