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What is a 21st-Century Classroom?

The vision of what a 21st-century classroom is has changed from 2010 to 2011, according to a new report from CDW-G.

Students, teachers, and IT administrators now peg a 21st-century classroom as one that includes wireless Internet, an interactive whiteboard, and digital content. Last year's survey found that an Internet connection, a teacher computing device, and an LCD projector constituted a 21st-century classroom.

The results of this year's survey come from roughly 1,000 high school students, faculty, and district IT administrators.

As we've heard many times before, students reported using less technology in class than after school. The survey also pointed to a disconnect between technology perceptions of those at the district level versus those in schools. While 64 percent of IT administrators rate their district's technology as "cutting edge," only 45 percent of faculty and 39 percent of students report being satisfied with their classroom technology.

I sat down with some folks from CDW-G yesterday along with a few district-level IT administrators to talk about the role that technology has played in their respective districts.

Pete A. Baccile, the technology director for the Hornell City School District in Elmore, N.Y., said building up a technology infrastructure has helped his school's graduation rate jump from 56 percent to 86 percent, especially after the school district equipped each classroom with a wireless access point, a document camera, and a 1-to-1 laptop program.

The tech-infusion was done on a shoestring budget of $34,000 per year, said Baccile, through creative funding, strong partnerships, the federal E-Rate program, and state aid. The district is now moving to a blended model of online learning where face-to-face teachers will collaborate with online teachers to help better support students.

Christine L. Coleman, the director of technology for the City School District of New Rochelle in N.Y., says her district plans to equip 125 students with Web-enabled Android devices. The district has established a cloud of Google apps that students will be able to access through the devices, allowing them to get online while complying with CIPA (the Children's Internet Protection Act). All students will be required to undergo Internet safety training before receiving their devices. The students who will be in the first round of this pilot project will be in grades 5-9.

Lastly, Brian Hackett, an instructional technologist for Forest Park High School in Woodbridge, Va., which is part of Prince William County Schools, discussed how his district has launched a tablet pilot in 15 schools to investigate how the devices can help personalize student learning. The district has found tablets are making a big impact in special education classes, said Hackett, and teachers and administrators are looking into how lessons from that can be applied to the general student population, a topic we recently covered in Education Week.

While the specific vision of a 21st-century classroom may fluctuate, certain aspects remain the same, the roundtable agreed. Tech-savvy, supportive leadership; creative thinking; flexible funding models; and teacher buy-in are all aspects that play a large role in building sustainable and effective tech. integration projects.

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