Education: A whole new digital world

I raised my kids, like many of you, with the theme song from Disney’s “Aladdin,” called “A Whole New World,” playing in the background. We truly have entered a whole new digital world, as the baby boomer lifestyle gives way to that of the “net generation.” Over the past 20 years, the most significant change affecting our youth is the rise of the computer, the Internet and other digital technologies. We don’t have to look too far to see that the global economy and digital age require new abilities. According to Don Tapscott, author of “Grown Up Digital — How the Net Generation is Changing Your World,” “it’s not what you know that counts anymore; it’s what you can learn.” Students today still need to learn reading, writing and arithmetic like their parents and grandparents, but that won’t be enough. As Tapscott puts it:

The ability to learn new things is more important than ever in a world where you have to process new information at lightening speed ... Students need to be able to think creatively, critically and collaboratively; to master the “basics” and excel in reading, math, science and information literacy, and respond to opportunities and challenges with speed, agility and innovation. Students need to expand their knowledge beyond the doors of their local community to become responsible and contributing global citizens in the increasingly complex world economy.

Time magazine asked the question almost three years ago, “Can our public schools, originally designed to educate workers for agrarian life and industrial-age factories, make the necessary shifts to prepare our students for their future in the conceptual and cognitive age?”, published on Dec. 9, 2006, in “How to Bring our Schools Out of the 20th Century.”

According to Time, today’s economy demands “21st century skills,” including “knowing more about the world,” “thinking outside the box,” “becoming smarter about new sources of information,” and “developing good people skills.”

Enter the Mercer Island School District. I am a candidate for Mercer Island School Director, Position No. 2, in the upcoming Nov. 3 election, and among the things that excite me about this opportunity to serve our students is the district’s adoption of the “2020 Vision.” The 2020 Vision embodies the district’s commitment to prepare our students to thrive in the cognitive, global and digital world that will characterize their future. As part of the 2020 Vision, the district intends to increase its number of personalized learning environments. The goal is for classrooms to be more student-centered and responsive to students’ strengths, needs and interests, a rarity in public schools where the focus is often narrowed to test scores.

My two children are recent MIHS graduates with different learning styles, and I believe that the district’s efforts to create a more personalized learning environment will encourage in each student a greater sense of confidence and success.

This new approach to education does not suggest that we simply tell our district’s outstanding teachers to do more. A significant part of the 2020 Vision is a dedication to providing teachers with the opportunities and support they will need as teaching and learning evolves to meet the needs of today’s students. The district will make the transition to 21st century education by utilizing the passions and affinities of both our teachers and our students. The 2020 Vision is an open-ended lesson plan, and the best ideas for implementing the 2020 Vision are just as likely to come from students, teachers and members of our community, as from the School Board or the Schools Foundation. In this unique district, with support and input from both the school and broader community, we can prepare our students to thrive in the 21st century world.

Terri Caditz is a candidate for Mercer Island School Director, Position 2, in the Nov. 3 election. See www.Caditz4MISchools.com.

To see an earlier column by School Board candidate Dave Myerson, go to our Web site at www.mi-reporter.com.

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