Twenty First Century Learning at Southern Lehigh
As we enter the 21st century, there are over 2 billion young people between the ages of 1 and 19 on the face of this planet. One-third of humankind! The majority of these young people are living in Asia, Latin America, and Africa. The commonality among the different regions of this planet, is their digital connection. All of our students at Southern Lehigh School District are part of these young people! Tom Friedman, in his book The World Is Flat, and Daniel Pink in A Whole New Mind, among others have painted a picture of a highly competitive global economy that is driven by highly skilled and technologically literate people. As educators this raises for our district the question, “Does the present structure of our schools prepare this generation of students in Southern Lehigh for this digital world and economy? Are we doing all we can to prepare our students to thrive in a new global economy?"
For the past few years the district has focused on building both the physical and human infrastructures that will ensure both the acceptance and sustainability of 21st Century Learning and Skills. During this time, we have committed district resources and have sought additional funding in redesigning and upgrading our network, hardware, and web-based educational programs.
To date we have…
1) equipped all of our buildings with high-speed wireless connections and connections to Internet II and have increased our Internet security.
2) upgraded our hardware allowing more students and teachers a higher quality of access to the Internet and educational software.
3) expanded the use of web-based software programs. Some include: Study Island (PSSA preparation), Achieve 3000 (reading, writing and technology practice), First in Math (basic math skill development) Blended Schools / BlackBoard (access to standards-based on-line courses and supplemental learning from basic skill development to AP courses), EdInsight (data warehousing for administrators and teachers), Power School / Power Grade (electronic grading and parent access to student performance) and, Career Cruising and ConnectEd (online career preparation, college application and financial planning programs).
Because of these activities, we are well positioned to embrace 21st Century Learning at Southern Lehigh.
Research shows that the organization of our schools is the same most were fifty years ago even with greater access to information in this “digital-age”. "A new, nationwide poll of registered voters reveals that Americans are deeply concerned that the United States is not preparing young people with the skills they need to compete in the global economy. An overwhelming 80 percent of voters say that the kind of skills students need to learn to be prepared for the jobs of the 21st century is different from what they needed 20 years ago. Yet a majority of Americans say that schools need to do a better job of keeping up with changing educational needs." (from 21st Century Skills)
Schedules, policies and instructional strategies contribute to how educators, students, parents, and community members routinely perform within and with Southern Lehigh School District. Through our work, we will examine these structures and plan for improvement.
We will explore and plan for that which is required to learn in a "digital age." The idea of a "school district" limited to a single geographical place is no longer relevant given the possibilities that a digital-based learning environment affords both teachers and students. In the last decade, the advancement of communication via technology has both dramatically and fundamentally altered the way people learn, do business, work, and interact with each other. Children going to school no longer need to rely on textbooks as the sole source of information. Information can be gathered on any subject at anytime. It is no longer necessary to "drive" to a place of work everyday to be productive. It is possible to buy any product from any part of the world with the click of a mouse. Government and community services are readily accessible via digital means.
Informational technologies are the driving force behind the possible ways people will live in the new millennium. Our interest is to build capacity and bridge our “old” concept of community with what it means to live in a global community. Through staff development focused on improving the delivery of content with dynamic instruction, and community and regional partnerships, we are poised to create an exciting learning experience for all our students so that they can excel within this emerging "digital world".