Improved learning is a concern for our nation. Our economic prosperity depends on it, as does our strength as a nation. To improve learning in the 21st Century, schools—and the public—need to realize that students need the appropriate learning tools for this age.
Technology tools alone will not do it. Schools need to thoughtfully integrate technology in support of teaching and learning at higher levels. Our aim must be improved learning. It is not devices because they are cool, and it is not technology for the sake of technology.
When we talk about technology tools for kids, some people get confused and think we simply want the devices for their bells and whistles. Some think their primary purpose is to motivate modern kids. Still others think that we mean to replace teachers with computers. None of these are true.
We are talking about technology tools for kids because these tools facilitate a new and better type of learning in this age where students become responsible for their own learning. Instead of sitting passively and acquiring the knowledge that is provided to them by the teachers, the students become active learners in the classroom, researching answers, solving problems, and analyzing global issues.
Teachers in these classrooms must assume new roles as well. They must move from the provider of knowledge to the guide that assists students with their own individual learning.
Essentially, what we are talking about is a higher standard of learning for the challenging world of this century. The workplace world has changed, and schools need to change to prepare students for the modern workplace.
For centuries, public schools have emulated the workplace or the office work of their contemporary times. When clerical workers were sharpening their nibs with penknives and dipping their quills in inkwells, schools had those same inkwells on the desk of every student.
When the office workplace was based on paper, students were getting their information from books and writing their assignments in notebooks.
With the dawning of the 21st Century, humankind entered the information age based upon the ease of access to digital media and the volume of resources available to everyone. Many jobs that have traditionally been blue collar are now requiring a high level of technological skill. Computers are in the office, in the trades, in agriculture, and nearly everywhere.
If modern schools are to properly prepare students for their futures, the schools need to provide the modern learning tools that reflect the contemporary workplace.
Earlier this year, Minnesota Governor Dayton spoke to a difficulty Microsoft is having filling its highly skilled positions. According to Dayton, Microsoft has 2,600 senior programming jobs world-wide that are going unfilled because Microsoft cannot hire people with the skills to do these jobs. Starting salary for these jobs is $105,000 annually.
Despite our nation’s high unemployment rate and the attractive salary the software giant is offering, Microsoft cannot find the people to fill their jobs. There are simply not enough people with these skill sets.
This is the future for some of the most lucrative jobs in our nation. People with advanced technical skills will be in high demand. They will be very employable and able to demand high salaries.