Districts Revamp Curricula for 21st Century Learning


School districts around the United States are taking an active approach to 21st century learning by retooling their curricula and changing the way they measure student achievement in STEM subjects. What's more, according to a survey released this month by the National School Boards Association, technology is playing a major role in facilitating change, from online learning to project-based learning to Web 2.0 applications like wikis and blogs.

The study, released in mid-October in conjunction with the NSBA's T+L conference, surveyed more than 300 district personnel on the use of technology to support learning. The findings suggested that districts are moving beyond the requirements of NCLB and taking a considered approach to 21st century learning, according to NSBA Executive Anne L. Bryant.

"We believe this is a good indication that school districts are moving beyond the basic requirements of No Child Left Behind and really looking at the advanced skills that students are going to need to perform well in the workplaces of the future," she said.

According to the study, more than half of the districts responding said that they've "revamped their curricula to include higher math, science, and technology standards; and nearly 50 percent have indicated they are now using new assessment measures for 21st century learning skills, such as problem-solving, teamwork, and critical thinking."

Of these, about 85 percent indicated that technology is playing a role in the changes they're making. The bulk are employing distance or online learning in their programs and upgrading science equipment, with the vast majority saying they're using technology for project-based learning.

Districts are also boosting their advanced placement courses and tests (42 percent) and workforce readiness programs (35 percent).

Some of the other key findings of the survey include:

  • The two biggest challenges for districts were funding and integrating technology into classrooms, each at 45 percent;
  • Ninety-two percent said that technology in the classroom "increases educational opportunities" for students;
  • Low-income students face problems with accessing the Internet from home, according to 80 percent of respondents;
  • Most districts (73.4 percent) rating their network speed as fast or very fast; and
  • Most districts (52.5 percent) are using wikis, blogs, and other interactive/Web 2.0 technologies.

The study also explored district adoption of 1:1 computing programs, E-Rate, and various other technology-related topics. More information about the survey, including complete results, can be found at the link below.

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About the author: David Nagel is the executive editor for 1105 Media's online education technology publications, including THE Journal and Campus Technology. He can be reached at dnagel@1105media.com.

Proposals for articles and tips for news stories, as well as questions and comments about this publication, should be submitted to David Nagel, executive editor, at dnagel@1105media.com.

About the Author

David Nagel is editorial director of 1105 Media's Education Technology Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal and STEAM Universe. A 25-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art and business publications.

He can be reached at dnagel@1105media.com. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at or follow him on Twitter at @THEJournalDave (K-12) or @CampusTechDave (higher education).

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