National Writing Project

Keeping the Promise of the 21st Century: Bringing Classroom Teaching into the Digital Age

Date: April 28, 2009

Summary: Over the four years of the Technology Initiative, NWP accelerated growth in its cadre of teacher-consultants, created new classroom-tested practices, produced programs on using technology for teaching, and helped engage students in active learning of subject matter that is tied to meaningful learning goals, reports Inverness Research in this policy brief.


Excerpt from Report

The digital age has transformed how work is done in science, health care, the law, journalism, international relations, education, environmental conservation, agriculture, engineering. To prepare students to thrive in today's society, teachers need to know more about how technologies are used in disciplines and workplaces, and—most critically—how to use the right technologies to support student learning in specific subject areas.

Gone are the days when teachers could use computers merely for basic drills. Conducting research, evaluating sources of information, displaying data, solving problems, working collaboratively on written and oral presentations—these are the new "basic skills" of the 21st century. Never have such strenuous demands been placed on practicing teachers to master new ways to teach new skills.

Many schools have computers available for classroom use. Yet computers themselves don't teach teachers or students how to use them. Teachers need high-quality, subject-matter-specific, hands-on experiences and ongoing school-based support to make wise use of technologies for learning. . . .

NWP is distinctive among professional development providers. It is a network of teachers who build leadership and knowledge of teaching and learning from systematic study of their own classroom practices and the practices of colleagues, as well as from research. These leading teachers—called teacher-consultants—share their professional knowledge and practices with other teachers through local NWP professional development programs. . . .

This brief presents lessons learned from the initiative, along with implications for policy supports that are needed to help teachers bring their classrooms into the digital age. . . .

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