Christy Tvarok, in her post “Make Noise, Make Change,” encourages teachers around the United States to share their vision for educational change in our nation, particularly as it relates to digital literacy and technology integration. She is going to mail the aggregated responses directly to the current US candidates for President. Please add your perspectives and ideas as comments to her post. The following is my contribution.
Christy: Thank you for your willingness to extend these conversations beyond the blogosphere and directly advocate for constructive, sensible change in our educational institutions with our political candidates running for President in the United States. Clearly there is a great deal which can and needs to be said. I’ll try to be succinct.
1) We must cut down and reduce our curricular standards and instead focus on cultivating habits of mind in our schools. TIME is the number one obstacle we face for any type of proposed educational change. The elephant in the room, as Dr. Robert Marzano pointed out in his keynote at the Oklahoma state leadership conference in July 2007, is that we don’t have enough time TODAY to teach all the content standards and curriculum we are required to as teachers. In response to the demands of these mandates, high stakes testing, and mania continuing from “Nation at Risk” (2 Million Minutes is the latest example) we have people calling for simply more time in school. We don’t simply need a new wrapper on the same old “sandwich” of school learning. We don’t need food coloring, And we don’t need new flavoring added. We need a new sandwich. This begins with addressing the primary drivers of learning tasks in our schools today: Curriculum standards and high stakes testing.
2) Educational technology must play a fundamental role in this learning revolution. Every teacher and student in every school, from grade three on, needs to be equipped with a laptop computer capable of not only accessing content in various media formats (permitting media consumption) but also permitting media PRODUCTION and PUBLISHING. Creating and collaborating must become hallmarks of learning in the 21st century classroom. These tasks can be performed safety, respecting the privacy and rights of both students and parents. There are many choices and paths forward to advance these goals. Our vision of digitally infused learning in the 21st century must go beyond CAI (computer aided instruction) and using Microsoft Office. The 21st Century Skills our students require include media literacy, multimedia publication and communication, and collaboration with diverse team members separated by space and time. The OLPC costs $180 per unit today, but was developed for the developing world. The EEEPC costs $500 per unit today. Amortize those costs over three years. One to one learning IS financially reasonable for our students TODAY. This is a path we need to follow today, not tomorrow. The textbook industry is NOT going to lead this change, in fact they will continue to oppose it as they did in Texas with House Bill 4. The textbook industry should not dictate our educational policy in the United States, just as the oil and gas industry should not dictate our foreign policy. Without our vocal advocacy, the lobbyists for educational corporations will continue to try and call the shots. This must end. The open content movement will continue to grow and offer higher quality, comparatively better alternatives to paper-based printed textbooks as time goes on. The time to embrace 1:1 learning is now. We do not simply need more desktop computers in labs and in classrooms. We need one laptop computer for EVERY teacher and EVERY student in our schools (grades 3 and up) NOW, not tomorrow. And we need a vision for the constructive uses of these tools for learning, which involves regular CREATION and COLLABORATION as well as consumption.
3) As Phil Schlechty argues in his books and publications related to school reform, we must fundamentally redefine the role of the teacher in our 21st century classroom. Rather than defining the teacher as a fount of knowledge, we must define teachers as DESIGNERS and INVENTORS of engaging work for students. Often, the work students do will have a digital face, but that should not be universal. This is one of the most important elements in the learning revolution we need: Teachers must change their own view of themselves and their role in the classroom (in many cases, for those who remain the “sage on the stage”) and parents need to understand the reasons for this change. There are my reasons accounting for high rates of dropouts in our schools, but one of the primary ones we must address directly is BOREDOM. Many kids are bored in school. As teachers redefine their roles as DESIGNERS and INVENTORS of engaging work, this situation can be remedied.
4) Everyone wants a high quality education for students rhetorically, but the fact is in many states our legislators refuse to pay for it. This strikes home for me here in Oklahoma, where we rank 48th in the nation in teacher pay. We are living in an era of all-time high profits for oil and gas companies in the world, and Oklahoma is a major producer of oil and gas. Yet this year, in 2007-2008, our schools in Oklahoma are facing a $40 million shortfall. This is not just ridiculous, it is a crime. We must exhort our leaders at both state and national levels to pay our teachers higher wages. The economics of our educational situation do not require the analysis of a Rhodes scholar. To address the achievement gaps, we have to pay our teachers in more challenging / lower SES schools more money. We absolutely must not pay teachers based on the test scores of their students. ALL K-12 teachers, regardless of the socio-economic level of the students they teach, deserve and NEED to be paid more. As taxpayers we need to put our money where our mouths are (or should be) and pay teachers high wages so we can keep them in the profession.
There are more things that I could write, but those are some of the main points that come to mind. Thanks for your advocacy and being willing to speak out.
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