In 2005, Hurricane Katrina displaced nearly 400,000 students, destroyed schools, and delayed the academic year in many Mississippi and Louisiana school districts.
But even before the storm, students in these districts were not easily acquiring the skills needed to compete in a global, technology-driven economy. Many districts lacked funding for Internet connectivity in classrooms, and instruction was not adapted to the way young people learn today.
Students were missing opportunities to develop vital critical thinking, problem solving, communication, and collaboration skills. Teachers recognized the problem and wanted to engage students in new ways, but were not sure how to begin or where to get the resources.
With a US$80 million investment, Cisco established the 21st Century Schools Initiative (21S) to:
Cisco built relationships with nonprofits, academic institutions, and technology companies that provided the equipment and resources to multiply the impact of the 21S initiative. For example:
Through 21S, Cisco introduced technologies that fostered heightened student engagement, ongoing teacher professional development, and greater parental involvement.
The 21S Initiative equipped classrooms with powerful technology tools like interactive whiteboards, video cameras, and video editing software.
Teachers used these tools to incorporate activities like podcasting, blogging, and moviemaking into classroom instruction.
Some school districts experienced greater student engagement and enthusiasm, higher standardized test scores, higher graduation rates, lower drop-out rates, and increased parental involvement, according to summative evaluations of the 21st Century Schools Inititive conducted by the Center for Children and Technology at Education Development Center, Inc.
Designed to be a model for similar transformative programs, the 21st Century Schools Inititive has since been replicated in California, New York, and Sichuan Province in China.
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