So lets recap what I’ve covered so far:
- Element 1: get everyone to buy into a common roadmap, a “vision” for what the curriculum needs to be, and thus curriculum was the first area I outlined in the steps to reinventing our education system.
- Element 2: once you have the common vision, funding and assessment becomes something that everyone (or at least a majority of American families) can support. But using funding as a way to align incentives and change behavior is critical to a successful redesign of our education system and its underlying processes.
So what is element 3? You can’t change the system without ensuring that you train the educators in how to integrate 21st century learning tools into their approach to teaching. That also includes how to utilize technology. One of the major areas of dysfunction in our education system was best said by my colleagues at the Innosight Institute. They are also the co-authors of the thought provoking recent book called “Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change The Way The World Learns.” Essentially, their premise is that schools deployed technology without creating content that was customized for the experience of the digital technology being deployed. We’ve seen magazine companies put their exact content onto websites, and textbook publishers create eBooks. All it is, is the same experience on a different platform. That strategy is a losing strategy. The textbook publishers just don’t know it yet, but history would tell otherwise.
So we need to train educators how to use this technology, and that requires part of the investemtn to go into professional development. I see a few areas worth exploring here:
- School districts must make professional development time a requirement as part of their teacher evaluation process. Without creating the incentive, teachers won’t do it.
- States should create their own professional development programs in the area of technology literacy and its use. They should ensure that teachers are exposed to the latest technology developments so that they are current in their approach. Educators should also be required to be trained on best practices for integrating technology into the curriculum, and incentives must be put in place to use them.
- The NEA must accept a commitment to this process. In my mind, this may be the biggest obstacle to the entire reinvention plan. I equate the NEA to the MLB Players Union – it’s that strong. Teachers salaries must be raised, but with that comes accountability and no tenure. As a tradeoff to being paid like a corporate employee, they should be held accountable like one. Honest evaluations must be established so that every child is assured of a high quality educational experience. While technology helps “level the playing field,” so to speak, a student’s learning experience is still influenced primarily by the teacher. But with technology, teachers become mentors, and can get closer to a one-to-one relationship with their students.
- A very radical idea, but used in places such as Finland: perhaps let teachers be trained by the students on how to use technology? Students love to role model and demonstrate mastery of skills, and I think we all know that our children are quicker to pick up technology than us adults. Of course there are some exceptions to that rule, but by and large, this is true.
These are just a few ideas I have about professional development. The key to the entire reinvention of our education system is to ensure that our teachers are adequately trained, paid sufficiently, and then held accountable so that they are incented to constantly improve. We need to make the teaching professional the revered position that it once had, not some underpaid, underappreciated role that it holds in many locations around our country today.
Next week I will talk about the final piece to the puzzle: how will we define success?
Thanks for reading and stay tuned. The journey continues…..