"21st century skills" is arguably one of the biggest buzzwords in education today. Digital literacy, tech competency, collaboration and problem-solving skills are getting the attention they deserve, however they're generally addressed at the middle- and high-school level. Many elementary-school students have to transition from a traditional cut-and-paste, alphabet curriculum into the new digital world of education with little practical knowledge. While they may be whizkids when it comes to playing on an iPad, they aren't necessarily prepared to apply that knowledge to their education.
It seems natural to incorporate more technology into elementary-school classrooms: it's interactive, relevant and exciting, and it doesn't have to be done at the expense of hands-on education. It's important that schools strike a balance: experts recommend putting strict time limits on screen-time both in and out of the classroom. Computers and apps should only be used with careful consideration to achieving learning objectives. With purposeful integration, teachers can harness the power of technology to transform, rather than replace, their current instructional practices.
Blended learning also offers a number of benefits when it comes to differentiated instruction. "Part of the appeal of the software programs is their reliance on visuals, making learning easier for English learners and students with dyslexia," said former assessment and intervention administrator Laura Ryan. It also has positive implications for student intervention. The International Center for Leadership in Education believes "that reimagined and redesigned instructional days [...] could allow all students to access the unique and mutually reinforcing support represented by differentiation, individualization, and personalization—an Instruction and Intervention System powered by blended learning pedagogies and practices."
Watch how one elementary school is integrating tech tools in their classrooms: