There has been a great deal written lately about technology in the classrooms, teacher accountability and school reform. Actually, it is pretty challenging to keep up with all of the reports, articles, books and blog posts not to mention the discussion occurring each and every day on Twitter. I have done my best to read as much as I possibly can and, more importantly, to reflect on the ideas and how they impact me as both a teacher and as a resource for the faculty at my school. Before I share my thoughts, here is a partial list of the things I have read recently that have influenced me:
- NYT article from (9/3) about the Kyrene School District and how massive spending on technology has not resulted in improved test scores.
- Daniel Willingham’s book “Why Don’t Students Like School?” A cognitive science look at how the mind works and its implications for the classroom.
- Two recent Forbes articles by Steve Denning: The Single Best Idea for Reforming K-12 Education and The Single Best idea For Reforming K-12 Education: Part 2.
- Multiple conversation on Twitter, most particularly #edchat.
- Daniel Pink’s book Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us.
- The McKinsey report from 2007 on How the World’s Best Performing School Systems Come out on Top. Thanks to my Head of School (@loomissheila) for sending me this one!
- The American RadioWorks pieces on Testing Teachers. Another piece sent to me by my Head of School.
I have been trying to see and make the connections between all of these sources of information and come up with some conclusions. Here are a few that I have come to thus far.
- Teachers need a better understanding of the most recent research into learning and the brain. Cognitive science has really just begun to understand how the brain works and its impacts on teaching and learning. I have attended several Learning and the Brain conferences in the past year and found them to be quite enlightening. The confluence of cognitive science, research and teaching is hugely important and has not been exploited by enough teachers.
- Technology by itself is definitely NOT the solution. Teaching 21st century skills and using the most current technologies in the classroom are not a matter of simply putting the technology in the teachers’ hands. SIGNIFICANT teacher training and support are critical if new technologies are going to have a positive impact on the students and their learning. Teachers need to get together and collaborate about ways to incorporate new technologies into the curriculum. This takes time and support from the administrators in a school.
- Good teachers and good teaching are the most important factors when it comes to student learning. Good teachers are not born, they are made through constant professional development and training in a system that values life long learning and models it each and every day. Schools need to create a culture where the craft of teaching is constantly being evaluated and improved upon.
- A quality teacher evaluation and professional development program needs to be central to the mission of the school. Self-reflection, peer evaluation and support, ongoing training and mentoring are cornerstones of a quality program. For the program to be effective, it must not focus solely on new teachers. Veteran teachers need as much support and professional development as those new to the profession.
- The one area where I am still uncertain is how to actually measure “success.” I am not convinced that standardized test scores are the solution. Coming up with dependable assessment tools is no easy task to be certain. I am still looking for the answer to this piece and would welcome any suggestions or thoughts you may have on the topic.
I guess that is enough for my Labor day mind dump. Thoughts?