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Students work on projects in 2018 in Lei Ann Woozley’s fifth-grade magnet program class at New Market Elementary School, which focused on incorporating blended learning into the curriculum.

With each passing year, new concepts and trends emerge in education regarding how today’s students are taught.

Looking to 2020, the facets of a modern age will continue to permeate how learning takes place.

The biggest trend that stays consistent through the years is technology and how it is used in the classroom. Blended learning — using new technological tools to teach basic concepts — is being utilized around the world.

Frederick County Public Schools have been discussing and consistently increasing the use of blended learning. School Superintendent Terry Alban said she values blended learning because of the personalized instruction it can provide to students.

Additionally, Alban said using technology in the classroom is important because it prepares students for college and the workforce where they will be expected to have a grasp on using such tools.

Kelly Trigger, associate vice president of the Center for Teaching and Learning at Frederick Community College, agreed.

“Blended learning ... increasingly mirrors how we use digital information in our everyday lives to gain knowledge and solve problems,” Trigger said in an email, but added that there is a limit.

“Instantaneous access to information is no substitute for critical thinking,” Trigger said. “Navigating the Information Age requires enhanced digital and information literacy to assist us with identifying accurate and reliable information.”

Board of Education President Brad Young and board member Michael Bunitsky both said while technology in the classroom is a great benefit to students, it must be viewed as a tool and nothing more.

Technology “is simply a tool in the arsenal that teachers have to help students learn. Without an effective teacher, technology cannot teach by itself,” Young said in an email. “We need to make sure that our teachers find the appropriate balance of the use of technology in effective teaching.”

Increasing technology brings into play another trend that has been emerging in education: the shifting role of teachers.

According to some experts, the classroom teacher is shifting from someone who knows everything and the gatekeeper of information to one of mentor, facilitator and newbie when it comes to exploring new concepts and methods.

“There was a time when teachers were the expert and it was their job to pass on that content to students,” Alban said. “Teachers still have expertise, but students can also find information by googling.”

Trigger thinks this shift in teachers becoming the “guides” for learning has been taking place slowly over the past few decades due to increased access to information.

“This change in the teacher’s role offers students the opportunity to witness learning in progress as teachers model various methods of problem-solving that align with specific disciplines,” Trigger said.

When asked about emerging trends in higher education, Trigger said she has seen more and more students take on their own version of blended learning by enrolling in both online and hybrid courses. Trigger said this gives students more flexibility and aids them in managing their time effectively.

For kindergarten through 12th grade, Bunitsky said there has recently been a lot of discussion around brain-based research and instruction for teachers to help teach students in the most effective way.

“It’s looking at how the brain thinks and how the brain uses information, how it stores information, and setting up activities to match the processes. ... It’s actually looking at a science of learning,” Bunitsky said.

Besides technology and what happens in the classroom, student well-being, especially regarding mental health, continues to be a leading topic.

Young and Alban said mental health awareness continues to be a priority of the school board and school system and that FCPS is working to add more counselors in schools and increase the prevalence of social-emotional learning.

Both agree that increased social media has contributed to an increase in bullying, but both feel it is not something that will go away in the near future.

“We are just beginning to see some of the consequences of these social media platforms on our children and adults,” Alban said. “I think this is an issue our culture will grapple with during the next decade.”

Follow Katryna Perera on Twitter: @katrynajill.

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