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This letter appears in our new publication SmartReport on ISTE2015.

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I loved summer camp when I was a kid. Every July, my folks shipped me and my bags off to Camp Cedar Crest in the mountains of San Bernardino, California, for a week of friends, fun, games, activities and classes. I ate a copious amount of S’mores, played volleyball for hours, sang around the campfire and giggled with my friends into the wee hours of the night. It was always a good time. And I always came away from camp with great memories, new friends and fresh energy for the school year.

The annual ISTE show and conference reminds me a bit of camp. For four days each summer, educators from around the globe come together to network, exchange ideas, learn from one another and find new ways to tackle the challenges of education. This year’s show was no exception, and SmartBrief editors were on the ground to catch it all. (read more…)

Veteran journalist and documentary filmmaker Soledad O’Brien tells how technology can help overcome barriers and close achievement gaps.

This story appears in SmartBrief’s digital publication, SmartReport on ISTE 2015. To see more features, tips and our Tech Showcase, download it now.

Seventeen-year-old Maria Castro had a dream: to attend Stanford University and study solar engineering. The sixth of seven children in a working-class immigrant family, Maria was a standout honors student at Carl Hayden Community High School in Phoenix. Maria was in her sophomore year when she discovered that her school did not offer calculus, a class she needed to be considered for admission to Stanford.

Determined, Maria set out to get the course she needed. She wrote up a proposal for the class, persuaded 31 of her peers to take it with her and pleaded with the administration to get a teacher and funding. It worked. The school added the two-semester course, and Maria and her classmates attended it every day after school. (read more…)

When it comes to using technology in the classroom, teachers “have to be open-minded” and willing to take risks, said Moananui Blankenfeld, a senior at Kamehameha Schools Hawai’i during a conversation I had with her and her peers at their tabletop session at ISTE 2015.

“Get out of your comfort zone,” advised Blankenfeld. “Do something you haven’t done before.”

She was not alone in her thinking. I spoke with several other student presenters at the conference to get their take on the issue and see what advice they have for tech-wary educators. Their insight and advice was honest, practical and (surprisingly) fair. Here’s what they had to say:

Turn to your students. Today’s students were “born in the digital age,” and technology is “second nature” to them, said Keakealani Pacheco, a senior at Kamehameha. Take advantage of this, she recommended. They offer a wealth of knowledge and experience. “Don’t be afraid to ask,” Pacheco emphasized. (read more…)

Education-badge-blue2The vast majority of us now work in environments where the ability to learn is more critical than what we know and where the most valuable currency is influence, not power. — Liz Wiseman, Rookie Smarts

The education landscape has shifted dramatically during the last 10 years. Tablets have replaced textbooks. Students use smartphones during class — for learning. Educators connect online to share best practices.

What does the next decade hold for education? What will become the future of schools? Educator and author Will Richardson took on the topic during his ISTE 2015 session, Tech in 10: Effective Teaching for the Next Decade.

“‘Knowledge’ isn’t the word any longer. ‘Skills’ is no longer the term. ‘Learning’ is the word,” Richardson said, noting that the jobs of tomorrow will require serial mastery. “If our kids don’t have the ability to learn, it really doesn’t matter how much knowledge we give them.”

“This is a very different world that our kids are stepping into,” he said. (read more…)

Education-badge-blue2How can educators, employers and government leaders work together to prepare students for today’s technically-sophisticated labor market? And what kind of skills route students to good, 21st-century jobs? Panelists addressed these questions and more during a May 21 conversation hosted by New America Foundation.

Much attention has been directed to the “skills gap,” or the challenges employers confront in sourcing workers with the right qualifications for today’s fast-paced economy. Here are some lessons stakeholders shared at the discussion:

The U.S. is not alone in this fight

There’s a lot of anxiety surrounding skills in the U.S., from both the supply side — students weighing which postsecondary track or college major will land them a job — and the demand side — employers who are struggling in their search for highly-skilled workers. It is taking today’s college graduates more time to find a job, and recent graduates are more likely to be underemployed, noted New America Senior Policy Analyst Mary Alice McCarthy, citing a report from the New York Federal Reserve. (read more…)