21st century learning in elementary schools

The United States’ approach to education has been changing rapidly over the past few years, and the need to address 21st century learning appears to be one of the driving forces. Broadly speaking, 21st century learning focuses on the idea that students need to be prepared to meet the challenges they will face in college and/or their careers after graduating from high school. This can mean everything from being able to compete in an increasingly globalized society to having the ability to use technology effectively and efficiently. Teachers are employing a number of tactics to accomplish this task, from personalized learning to the use of adaptive learning programs.

Admittedly, the concept is pretty broad. After all, how can teachers possibly prepare students to confront all of the challenges they will face in adulthood? Nevertheless, school districts are making the shift to 21st century classrooms and instruction in an effort to encourage students to engage in their learning, think critically, build knowledge and be able to apply what they’ve learned. It all starts in elementary school, and the approach that educators take to instill 21st century skills in young students looks slightly different than what is needed for those in high school.

Adaptive learning programs
While it’s been acknowledged for some time that students have varying levels of academic abilities and learn best in different ways and at different paces, it’s taken awhile for education to catch up. Many school districts are turning to adaptive learning programs to teach their students 21st century skills because they can tailor instruction to each individual student, something which is physically impossible for a teacher responsible for 30-some students to do alone. In elementary schools, teachers most often implement adaptive learning programs as a part of a rotational model, having students participate in stations, one of which involves using the technology.

Build foundations
The skills and knowledge that young students develop in elementary school provide a foundation for learning for the rest of their lives, so it’s important that instruction in the core subject areas doesn’t fall by the wayside. With 21st century learning, the difference is that elementary school educators are taking a multimedia approach to instruction to get students excited about learning this core content. It’s all about encouraging creativity and innovation.

The modern approach to instruction also means that the role of teachers is shifting in the classroom, even within elementary schools. Rather than asking young students to sit quietly while new concepts are explained to them, educators are increasingly taking on the role of the facilitator, connecting kids to new information and encouraging them to explore and think critically.

Video chat
Technology can also help facilitate students’ understanding of our increasingly globalized world by helping them connect with other young kids around the globe. Through Skype, for example, elementary math students in the United States can video chat with their counterparts in China or Germany to talk about what they’re learning, how their lives differ, and how they are the same.

Like this blog? Learn more about 21st century learning in our Adaptive Learning, White Paper.

Jessie Woolley-Wilson

Throughout her life and career, Jessie Woolley-Wilson has been driven by a singular belief that all children need and deserve high-quality learning opportunities, regardless of who they are or where they live. She believes that by supporting great teaching and learning, everyone wins: kids, families, communities and the world. Jessie has worked in the education technology space for nearly 20 years to support school and district leaders to improve learning and life outcomes for K-12 students.

Jessie joined DreamBox Learning® in 2010 as Chair, President, and CEO. The startup software company had pioneered Intelligent Adaptive Learning™ in 2006 and began partnering with schools soon after Jessie joined. Today, DreamBox serves nearly 3 million K-8 students and approximately 120,000 teachers. The company provided more than 350 million math lessons across the U.S. and Canada in 2017.

Jessie recently secured a $130 million investment in DreamBox from The Rise Fund, a global impact investing fund managed by TPG Growth. Prior to joining DreamBox, Jessie served as president of Blackboard’s K-12 Group and LeapFrog SchoolHouse, the K-12 division of LeapFrog Enterprises. Jessie also served in leadership positions at collegeboard.com, the interactive division of The College Board, and at Kaplan, the leading test preparation company in the U.S.

Jessie supports the broader K12 industry by serving on the boards of several educational organizations including Rosetta Stone, Newsela, the Western Governors University Board of Trustees, and Ursuline Academy. She is also a board member for Boeing Employees Credit Union, Pacific Science Center, and The Bullitt Foundation. She has been a featured speaker at international events including TEDx Rainier, SXSWedu, DENT and GeekWire Summit 2018.

Jessie is a two-time recipient of EdTech Digest’s EdTech Leadership Award for her work in transformative innovation in education and honored her as one of 2018’s Top 100 Influencers in EdTech. Seattle Business Magazine awarded Jessie the 2015 Executive Excellence Award in the CEO of the Year category and Forbes placed her on its “Impact 15” list for being a disruptor in education. The Puget Sound Business Journal honored Jessie as a “Woman of Influence” and 425 Magazine named her as one of eight “Unstoppable Eastside Women” for having a clear focus on the greater good. Additionally, The New York Times has profiled Jessie and her leadership style in their Corner Office column.

Jessie holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and a BA from the University of Virginia. She is also a 2007 Henry Crown Fellow and moderator for the Aspen Institute.
Jessie Woolley-Wilson