What’s New in Education
Schools seem to have their own sets of buzzwords and acronyms, and education trends can change from one year to the next. It’s hard to keep up. To understand what’s happening in schools today, take a look at these five current trends in education to learn how they’re affecting classrooms, the home, and ultimately your child.
With so much technology in schools — from iPads to educational games — teachers have many more ways to meet students’ individual learning needs while addressing their personal interests. Many digital games and educational software programs are “adaptive,” meaning that the content adjusts as kids progress to challenge or further support them. Also, teachers have easier access to more quality content, so they can direct students interested in outer space, for instance, to an online astronomy library. Teachers also have access to more specific information about students’ strengths and weaknesses, so they can better design and target their instruction based on needs and interest. This level of detail about a student’s performance and interests also makes it easier to suggest strategies and content that parents can use with their kids at home. A great teacher, coupled with great technology, can also make it easier for students and teachers to collaborate.
- Home-to-School Connection
Educators have always attempted to extend learning beyond the four-walled classroom, but technology helps make learning 24/7. Teachers can identify areas of high interest to parents or suggest ways they can support individual students. Homework is becoming more collaborative, whether among students or family members. With answers to almost any question at their fingertips, kids’ curiosity can be encouraged while they wait for a school bus or sit at a dentist appointment. And parents and teachers can stay in constant touch — from emails and texts to message boards and blogs — which can give parents a glimpse into a classroom’s inner workings.
- Common Core State Standards
Whether or not you’re a fan of the Common Core State Standards Initiative, a valuable conversation is going on about academic standards. States have always determined their standards and that hasn’t changed. The Common Core standards give schools a way to measure student progress throughout their academic careers and help teachers and parents identify progress, challenges, and help personalize student learning. Part of measuring student progress involves standardized testing, a process that’s currently being rethought and redesigned at the state level to match the new skills being taught in the classroom. The national conversation about Common Core, although heated at times, has emphasized that the best skill set for today’s learners fuses the 3 Rs (reading, writing, and arithmetic) with the 4 Cs (critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, and communication).
- Student Data Collection
Remember when academic records were kept in manila folders in giant filing cabinets in the school office? Nowadays most schools rely on cloud-based services to store student data. The data can range from addresses to test scores to eligibility for free lunch — all of which needs to be protected throughout a student’s school career and beyond. Plus, every time a student or teacher sets up an individual account for a classroom app or website or digitally tracks or records student progress, personally identifiable information potentially is being collected. What should parents do? Make sure to ask your school questions about how it’s collecting, using, sharing, storing, and safeguarding your child’s data. Check out FERPA for more information.
The study of science, technology, research, engineering, arts, and mathematics (called STEM, STEAM, or STREAM) takes a cross-curricular approach to learning. Many elementary schools take a holistic approach and weave these subjects and related skills, such as programming and design thinking, into their core classes. Some schools take innovative approaches by pairing social studies teachers with art teachers or science teachers with English language arts teachers. Project-based learning encourages students to create their own “driving questions” to then design, collaborate on, and create a research project, building the modern skills needed in today’s workforce.
If you’re a parent of an elementary school student, you might feel that the landscape is shifting under your feet. So much is changing in modern schools, from Common Core, new state tests, laptops, and iPads in classrooms to new ways of teaching — and learning. This comprehensive guide will help you find the best teacher-approved apps, games, and websites to support your kid in each grade and the best advice to help you understand current trends in schools and how they affect your kid.