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What's Working in Wyoming: Technology in the Classroom

Photo Courtesy of Connie Hollin

I am excited to report the amazing things have been happening for education in Wyoming, with the biggest among them happening at the end of March. It occurred in the form of the 1st annual Wyoming TEC Conference: Technology in the Evolving Classroom. What initially started out as 4 or 5 moms/teachers talking about the need to share what is being done with technology in classrooms turned into a successful two-day conference. We were able to do it by working outside of the traditional district and educational boundaries, and included everyone from local early childcare centers up to the local community college.

Our initial goal was to have approximately 100-150 teachers and administrators from around Wyoming share how technology is meeting the needs of our students.  Amazingly, it evolved well beyond that. We had 270 participants from all over the US, including presentations from internationally known technology leaders.

As Wyoming is one of the only states where education is fully funded, we are able to give our students opportunities that prepare them for many possible futures.  So in sharing what is being done in individual classrooms, grades, and schools, we have created a cohesive community and opened new channels of communication throughout the state.

We not only focus on how various technology tools can meet the needs of our current students, we shared what skills the students need to be successful in the 21st century. This means looking beyond educational content and giving students skills that will sustain their learning well beyond their time spent in the classroom. Current statistics tells us that in general the information a college student learns in their first two years of college is outdated before they graduate in year four. If this trend continues we need to teach students how to use their previous knowledge and adapt it to the changing world.

So how can we meet these needs in our students today? By giving them opportunities to use traditional content but learn and share it in new and innovative ways. This includes Information, Media & Technology Skills, Learning & Innovation Skills, 21st Century Themes, and Life & Career Skills.

Here are quick explanations of each of these areas:

  • Information, Media & Technology Skills are the skills needed for using a computer and the Internet to meet their technology needs. Beyond this, they give students the skills to recognize where the best information can be found, how to do it efficiently, and to evaluate the given information for validity and whether it meets the information needed.
  • Learning & Innovation Skills include creativity, innovation, critical thinking, problem solving, communication and collaboration. Are we giving students the opportunities to work through assignments and problems independently or with limited support so that they can gain the skills that will be used throughout every aspect of their lives?
  • 21st Century Themes look at those items that make us global citizens. They include global awareness, financial, economic, business and entrepreneurial literacy, civic literacy and health literacy. Here we are looking at a whole child as we give them opportunities to excel in their areas of interest.
  • Life & Career Skills are the aptitudes currently expected of all people in the 21st century. They include flexibility, adaptability, initiative, self-direction, social skills, cross-cultural skills, productivity, accountability, leadership, and responsibility.

I share this explanation so that parents can open the dialogue with teachers and educators and even assist in the areas that they excel in, which might not be traditionally thought of as schoolwork. I am an advocate for change in how we teach all students, so that not only do we give them basic skills but also the opportunities to build life skills. We need to see each student and child as an individual and give them the opportunity to have their dreams and desires met. This can be done not by doing it for them but allowing them to try and either failing or succeeding; they will grow from the personal lessons learned. If you need any additional information on 21st century education, feel free to contact me.

Connie Hollin is the 2011 Mom Congress Delegate for Wyoming. She is currently a special education teacher who has advocates for people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds for over 20 years. Her greatest joy is being a mother to two exceptional children ages 3 and 5. She also loves to read young adult novels, and perform as the female lead of the chorus in local theatre productions. She can be reached at hollinfamily@gmail.com or on Twitter.

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