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Top Five Lessons for the Digital Age

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By Don Knezek, CEO of the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE)

After a decade at the helm of a vibrant and increasingly international association, I'm more convinced than ever that we must move our education system into the digital age. How else can we prepare our children with the skills and literacies they'll need to thrive in school, work, and civic life? That's what we want for them, isn't it? Then let's get started.

1) Want a future for our kids? Build a bridge.

Build a bridge to the future with digital age learning, teaching, and education leadership. Yesterday's education system does not prepare students for tomorrow's challenges and opportunities.

Get Started: Social media is ablaze with relevant conversations, communities, and resources. Check out #edchat, a lightning round discussion hour held twice a week on Twitter. Or the National Coalition for Technology in Education and Training, based in Washington, DC, which includes a variety of organizations, groups and individuals who research and document digital age issues and policies. ISTE's new October leadership conference, Focus Forward, hones in on the role of district leaders in building that bridge to the future, and is keyed to its widely-adopted NETS. Tapping these resources can help prepare our children and ourselves for lifelong learning.

2) Concerned about educational value? Advocate for it.

Engage with stakeholders. Speak your piece and listen to others. Go for the long term as you calculate cost, effectiveness, and tradeoffs. For me, the essential measures are innovation, equity, opportunity, and ethics, and I'll go to bat for those.

Get Started: Follow the active and robust Twitter conversations about policy and values; try #edpolicy, #edreform, #edtechlead. Look to ISTE's affiliate organizations and Special Interest Groups for local and issue-specific advocates with whom to make common cause. Advocacy is hard, exhilarating work!

3) Want a world class education system? Collaborate internationally.

To re-imagine the possibilities and ignite transformation, collaborate with peers and others from around the world. We have so much to learn from and with the global community. For example, mobile learning is wide open right now, with new devices coming thick and fast and 90% of the world's population predicted to have access to the internet via mobile coverage by 2013. Countries, corporations and NGOs are partnering on multiple projects for developing and delivering educational services through a wide variety of mobile connections, from cells to smartphones to iPads and other tablets.

Get Started: Check out a recent podcast with ISTE's Special Interest Group for Mobile Learning where our conversation covered related UNESCO initiatives, the state of policy and practice in regions as different as Mexico and Sub-Saharan Africa, and the value of mobile devices as assistive technology.

4) Concerned about competitiveness? Invest in great teachers and school leaders.

We need to get off the dime and invest in world class teacher training and professional development. In fact, we can't afford to do anything less because the people teaching young learners and providing school leadership have the most impact on student achievement and potential lifetime earnings. It takes artful, committed, engaged, lifelong learners to prepare our kids for the 24/7 global information economy now driving change, challenge and opportunity.

Get Started: Respect and acknowledgement go a long ways. Funding goes further. Education is the infrastructure upon which competitiveness depends. Allocate budgets accordingly.

5) Want transformation? Go with the flow.

John Seeley Brown and others remind us that digital age learning is constructive and interactive. We build knowledge and meaning not so much from static chunks of information as from the flow of various contexts and connections. I've seen that shift happen within ISTE over the past decade as we moved from convening experts and repackaging their consensus to being a hyperconnector, bringing together far-flung and disparate communities where issues, arguments, learning networks, and meaning grow organically.

Get Started: Advocate for problem- and project-based learning; ISTE authors Suzie Boss and Jane Krauss are articulate champions of this approach. Understand the United Nation's Millennium Development Goals; they're shaping many ICT and education technology policies, practices, and projects around the world. Keep watching this blog as our partners in the Learning First Alliance work for and report on transforming learning and public education.


Views expressed in this post are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the endorsement of the Learning First Alliance or any of its members.

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