The practical education

Published 12:11 am Thursday, December 22, 2011

Accepting the Race for the Top grant money awarded to North Carolina, all $400 million of it, means big changes to essentially all aspects of education in the Beaufort County Schools — changes for principals, guidance counselors, teachers and students. Overall, it’s happening at a rapid rate, with continual training taking place throughout this school year in order to implement the changes in the next school year. It seems like a rush job. But it’s a necessary one.

It’s called 21st-century learning. Some of the aspects of 21st-century learning: collaboration, communication, problem solving, research, discovery learning, systems-based thinking, global communications.

Most of that should sound familiar. If you have a computer, if you’ve ever used Google, solved work issues via email or collaborated with others sitting at desks far away from your own, you’ve already graduated from 21st-century learning and are now 21st-century “doing” instead. You’re in the “real world,” and you’re there because of technology. Now it’s the responsibility of our schools to ensure that our graduated students have a fighting chance in the “real world,” which means giving them the same kind of access to technology.

By accepting the Race for the Top grant money and thereby acceding to the education requirements determined at a national level, North Carolina, and Beaufort County, are giving all of our public school students a leg up. The coming changes demand access to technology for everyone. One day, classrooms will be paperless and every child will be working at their desks on laptops, iPads, Blackberries or whatever device allows them to be wired into the network of their teachers and peers. And for states like Alaska, North Dakota, Texas and Vermont that declined to submit Race for the Top applications — with Texas Gov. Rick Perry citing, “We would be foolish and irresponsible to place our children’s future in the hands of unelected bureaucrats and special-interest groups thousands of miles away in Washington” — let’s just hope those states haven’t, ahem, left their children behind.