Outlook 2013: Elementary school classrooms, curriculum changing in Oklahoma

Technology is changing the way students learn in the classroom. Teachers are responding with enthusiasm, and students are the beneficiaries, said Derrel Fincher of the state Education Department.

BY CARRIE COPPERNOLL Published: April 28, 2013

Young children learning all the basics of reading, math and other subjects are going to school with a new style of classroom and teaching.

And even more changes are on the horizon, said Derrel Fincher, director of learning technologies at the state Education Department.

One of the most evident changes can be seen in classrooms themselves.

Students are working together across grade levels, Fincher said. Project-based learning is more common. Remote laboratories and simulators will allow students in small or rural schools to experience the world like students in large, urban districts, Fincher said.

“That’s something that will be very powerful for students to do,” he said.

Identifying weaknesses

Computers can identify areas where children struggle, like homonyms or capitalization. Education programs can adapt to those needs, Fincher said.

“It can focus more on those areas that you’re struggling with instead of giving the same thing to everybody,” he said.

Also, curriculum is changing rapidly.

Teachers and students now have access to a vast amount of data, and the amount of knowledge available to the world will only expand.

It will allow students to shift from finding data to analyzing it, Fincher said. It’s a shift from what to why.

“Data used to be the end point,” he said. “Now it’s the beginning point.”

Curriculum is blossoming from critical facts to critical thinking, Fincher said.

“What are the essential things kids need to know?” he said. “How do you tap into their interests, desires and wants?”

Teachers have access to a limitless amount of electronic content — lesson plans, digital books, studies. And the information available is growing and improving, Fincher said.

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