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Holly M. Jobe: Utilizing Technology in the Classroom

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January 17, 2012 06:03 pm


The following blog post comes from Holly M. Jobe, president of the Board of Directors for the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE).

We’ve heard from so many authors including Tom Friedman, Daniel Pink, Tony Wagner, Heidi Hayes Jacobs, James Stigler, and James Hiebert that schools are not preparing students to thrive in the 21st century.  All of these authors have pointed to new skills students will need in the world they will inherit. Where will students learn these skills? It is clear to educational reformers that classrooms are where change happens.

Many of the 21st century skills are technology related, so it is essential to have technology tools available for teacher and student use in classrooms. I am delighted to write this blog post for the first Digital Learning Day encouraging more widespread use of technology in classrooms.

From 2006 to 2011, I was privileged to manage the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s Classrooms for the Future project. Classroom technology in high schools along with intensive professional development was provided in more than 90% of the eligible schools in the state. Part-time instructional coaches assisted teachers in transforming their classrooms into relevant, student-centered and rigorous learning environments. Where students and teachers had 1:1 laptop access during class, we saw transformation in teachers’ roles from mostly lecturers to lesson designers and student mentors. The motivation and enthusiasm that students showed for learning new tools and being more responsible for their learning throughout Pennsylvania is evident not only in high schools where the program began, but in middle and elementary schools to which the program expanded.

Conversations in schools changed. Teachers and the instructional coaches were talking about student learning and effective instruction as they worked together to design lessons that were more engaging for students. As a result, many classrooms are abuzz with more active learning. Students create podcasts, videos, blogs, and wikis; collaborate with people outside of school through Skype and other collaboration tools; and have the tools to express themselves and do research. Teachers use free web 2.0 tools or content management tools to create an online presence that provides students with anywhere anytime learning opportunities.

Some teachers have taken this concept another step to create what is commonly called a “flipped classroom”.  This involves flipping what happens in the classroom with what happens at home. Rather than lecture live, teachers make videos (live videos or screen casts) for their students to watch as homework. Class time is spent on practice and teachers working with students to better understand the material covered in the videos. The idea is that “class is for conversation, not dissemination.”

This method engages students to be independent learners. Rather than expecting all students to work at the same pace, flipping the classroom allows teachers to spend more one-on-one time with each of their students. Technology is a perfect partner for providing options for students in this type of classroom. There are many free resources that teachers can draw on to assign to students in the flipped classroom.  (See resources below.)

A virtual community of technology using educators from around the world has emerged. These educators are sharing ideas and projects and are stretching each other’s thinking about what it means to learn and teach in a digital age.  The largest of these communities is the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). ISTE is the premier membership association for educators and education leaders engaged in improving learning and teaching by advancing the effective use of technology in PK−12 and teacher education. ISTE membership is a powerful and meaningful way for educators to connect as a community to share the challenges and excitement of teaching and transforming education. ISTE has been my professional home throughout my career. It is where I have met long-time colleagues and learned so much about learning with technology. ISTE provides educational technology resources, the NETS, publications, professional development, communities of practice, and a fabulous annual conference held the last week in June. Membership information is available here.

Educators have a moral obligation to provide learning environments for students that make available tools for making sense of their world. In this day and age, students need to learn to effectively use and learn with the tools and technology they will find in virtually every profession. By doing so, they become better problem solvers, critical thinkers, collaborators, communicators, and creators—not just consumers—and are better prepared to be tomorrow’s leaders. Digital classrooms are essential. I invite you to find a colleague and try something new with technology today.

Holly M. Jobe is president of the Board of Directors for the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). Learn more about Digital Learning Day at


Bergmann, Jonathan and Sams, Aaron; Flip Your Classroom, Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day, ISTE July 2012

Friedman, Thomas L.; The World Is Flat, A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005

Jacobs, Heidi Hayes; Curriculum 21, Essential Education for a Changing World, ASCD, 2010

Pink, Daniel H. : A Whole New Mind, Moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age, Riverhead Books, 2005

Stigler, James W. and Hiebert, James; The Teaching Gap, Best Ideas from the World’s Teachers for Improving Education in the Classroom, Free Press, 1999

Wagner, Tony; The Global Achievement Gap; Why Even Our Best Schools Don’t Teach the New Survival Skills Our Children Need- and What We Can Do About it, Basic Books, 2008

Free Digital Content Resources:

Khan Academy

Library of Congress – Teaching With Primary Sources

Library of Congress – American Memory

Open Textbooks and Resources:


Classroom Aid

Open Education Resources – OER Commons

United States Federal Agencies

Digital Learning Series

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