This issue of School Leader magazine includes a special section on education technology, as well as a feature on the Next Generation Science Standards.

Both subjects put the emphasis exactly where all educational undertakings should be focused – on the future.

Educational technology offers incredible promise to students. When deployed effectively, technology can help teachers personalize learning for students, assess individual student understanding and growth, and provide access to amazing educational resources.  In the past few years, many school districts have made significant investments in technology. The challenge now is to use that technology to the fullest extent possible to advance student achievement.

The new Next Generation Science Standards will help our students get ready to prepare for careers in science, technology, engineering, and math. As board members, we know that STEM careers offer a promising future for our students. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that STEM occupations will grow faster than other fields. It’s also important to note that, according to the BLS, wages in these types of jobs are generally higher than in other occupations.

The new standards, which were adopted by the State Board of Education in 2014, will provide all students with an appreciation of science, engineering and technology, and they will experience how science is actually done. The idea is that hands-on exposure to scientific concepts will spur a deeper understanding and more enthusiasm for the subject. 

According to the standards, students will be required to plan and carry out an investigation, analyze and interpret data, use mathematical and computational thinking, construct explanations (for science) and design solutions (for engineering), engage in argument from evidence, and ultimately obtain, evaluate, and communicate relevant information to others using technology. Even those students who decide not to pursue a STEM career can profit from obtaining these critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

What can school board members do to encourage and cultivate scientific learning, and maximize the effectiveness of educational technology in their schools?

Make sure to support these endeavors with actions as well as words. Provide students and teachers with the tools, resources and experiences they need to be successful. Perhaps your schools need updated or newly equipped laboratories to provide children with the learning opportunities necessary for success in scientific fields. Recognize that your teachers and administrators may need additional professional development.   

I would also urge board members to educate themselves about science and technology to keep up with what is going on in their schools. NJSBA offers training and services to help districts evaluate their iSTEAM (interactive science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) programs; contact John Henry, NJSBA iSTEAM and sustainable schools specialist, at jhenry, to learn more. NJSBA also provides dozens of programs on technology topics each year at Workshop and at the NJSBA technology conference held in the spring. There is no better way to prepare for the future than through training and education.

Donald Webster, Jr. is NJSBA’s president.