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21 Things 4 Students program transforms tech-based curriculum

The 21 Things 4 Students program caters to students of varying technology abilities and experience.

A simple question holds big answers in education these days: why are teachers working to incorporate technology into lesson plans?

Aside from the fact that educators across Michigan, and nationwide, are now instructing classrooms full of kids who have never heard the terms “VCR” or “dial-up Internet,” technology-based curriculum enables students to more comfortably integrate and adapt to their ever-evolving worlds.

Now that technology has made its way into the daily lives, hands and homes of nearly every American, teachers are learning too -- tech-based lesson plans produce students who are able to “do much more” than any generation of pupils prior.

For the REMC Association of Michigan, a group whose mission is to “promote the transformative use of technology and provide Michigan schools with access to educational resources and professional development to support quality teaching and learning,” the positive effects of tech-based classrooms seem infinite. From teacher summits to technology-centered curriculum programs, REMC offers Michigan educators the opportunity to access resources beyond their classroom walls.

One of the many programs spurred by a REMC grant, 21 Things 4 Students offers a step-by-step in-class program which introduces students to a variety of tech-based projects.

21 Things was developed and remains maintained by educators from Shiawassee, Ingham and Macomb counties. The program, with 21 unique areas of tech concentrations -- a reflection of its title -- was developed in order to provide teachers resources to enable students to meet or exceed technology proficiency standards set by the state of Michigan.

The program's 21 steps include lessons surrounding topics such as cloud initiation, smart search strategies, social networking and coding and game design. The program caters to students of varying technology abilities and experience.

For Katie Grunow and her group of Malow Junior High students within Utica Community Schools, 21 Things assists in turning her growing students from just “digital natives,” to the next generation of potential tech professionals.

“I was first introduced to the student site three years ago while working on a curriculum committee tasked with revamping a dated middle school presentation course,” Grunow said. “Students need new skills to compete in the global economy we live in. Basic computer skills won't cut it anymore --they need to be creative, critical thinkers and collaborators."

At Malow, staff developed an entirely tech-based class for students with curriculum that fits hand-in-hand with the goals of 21 Things.

“The new class we developed, digital literacy and media design, is project-based,” Grunow said. “While it would make sense for a tech teacher to instruct a class like this, we knew it was far more likely a woodshop teacher would not. The 21 Things project is the only reason that scenario could ever work. My kids love the curriculum. Technology is now a tool instead of a toy and to them it feels more like play than work."

The 21 Things team has received additional positive feedback from teachers across the state as they explore the program with their students:

“An incredible amount of pertinent information for all levels of technology use (and it's free)!" - James Cromie, Rochester Community Schools.

“The topics are great and the activities are all combined into one location for me. I often pick and choose activities and I also appreciate that I can do that!” - Jane Greenman, Grand Rapids, Mich.

For REMC and the teachers, programs and organizations advanced by their grants, Michigan kids' adaptation and success in a technological world is top priority. As this generation of Michigan's digital natives find their way into the professional world, the work of committed educators and programs such as 21 Things will continue to serve as a base for innovation in Michigan education.

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