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What High School Students Should Expect in 2013

Technology and college and career readiness will continue to be priorities in 2013.

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High school students could see more collaborative coursework in 2013,
High school students could see more collaborative coursework in 2013.

High school students and parents saw a lot of educational changes in 2012, including expanded digital initiatives, reconfigured school weeks, and a new set of common standards.

Two main factors drove the changes: an influx of new technology and a heightened emphasis on college and career readiness for high school students.

The coming year is shaping up to be more of the same. Here are three trends that educators and experts say high school students and parents can expect in 2013.

1. Blended learning: Rather than flooding classrooms with more devices, educators will likely take a step back from "shiny device syndrome" and evaluate how to best use the technology acquired over the past year, says Joel Block, a science teacher at River Valley High School in Wisconsin.

"Just using technology to use it has no added value in the classroom," Block says. "Print continues to be valuable in the classroom, just like technology, and using them together is the best option for creating an environment where students can learn best."

The wealth of free digital tools available to instructors and students—from massive open online courses (MOOCs) to instructional videos from TEDed and online lessons from the Khan Academy—will help blended learning take root in 2013, says Jim Lewis, CEO of Silverback Learning Solutions, a company that develops educational tools.

[Read why some states require online ed for graduation.]

More online learning will mean more screen time for students, even outside of the classroom, which can clash with some parenting philosophies, Lewis notes.

"It's a double-edged sword," he says. "Yes, there are other things they can get sidetracked on, but there's such rich content now on the Internet that it has to be a must access."

But by staying involved, parents can still ensure their student's technology use is productive.

2. Flipped classrooms: In the traditional classroom model, teachers lecture during class time and send students home with worksheets and assignments to gauge what they retained. The flipped classroom turns that model on its head.

"Parents will start seeing more and more students coming home and [watching] lectures … and other things that get them the content as homework," says Dan Caton, president of McGraw-Hill School Education, which develops educational programming.

In class, students use the content to work in small, collaborative groups on projects and problem solving, much as they would interact in the workforce, Canton notes.

3. Standards: The Common Core State Standards don't officially go into effect until fall 2014, but districts are already rolling them out and will continue to do so in 2013. The standards revamp English and math lessons to teach critical thinking and analytical skills in order to prepare students for life after high school.

[Discover what the Common Core could mean for assessments.]

Next Generation Science Standards are also being developed by a coalition of science educators, researchers, and school administrators from across the country, with a finalized draft expected in March. But science teachers such as Block in Wisconsin are already thinking about how the standards might take shape in their classrooms.

"I don't think it hurts to be ahead of the curve and be planning for those types of things," Block says, adding that changes in educational standards will make it increasingly important for parents to be engaged in the learning process by communicating not just with their students, but with the school as well.

An updated draft of the science standards will be available to the public during the first week of January, so parents can scope them out and give feedback to those tasked with developing the standards.

Have something of interest to share? Send your news to us at highschoolnotes@usnews.com.