1.) Moving up the Food Chain: Become comfortable with questioning our own / the system’s assumptions and traditions about the way education should work.Edit
A teacher has the potential to become a powerful agent of change in the classroom. Unfortunately not all teachers are comfortable being a risk taker. That is not to suggest that an educator needs to question everything all the time. But to meet the growing needs of students in this day and age a teacher will likely need to try different methods of instruction to serve all of their students. In an ideal world administrators would be/are supportive of their teachers asking questions and trying new things. In my experience if you aren’t able to “sell” your administrator on a new idea, repackaging the idea and being prepared to defend its exploration can often be effective. In general it seems that a teacher can question as long as it falls within the confines of the established curriculum. State standards have gone a long way toward establishing required educational content. Most questioning and creativity now seems to be in the presentation and what learning experiences are provided in the classroom.
2.) What Teachers Need to Know about Social Software: How do we know what to use? How do we find it? How do we use it effectively? +tech integrationEdit
We live in a technology driven society. Teachers need to be comfortable and confident with technology integration in the classroom. Many veteran educators are digital immigrants who unfortunately do not push themselves very hard to immigrate across the digital divide. Probably a big factor in this lack of technology integration/understanding is the ever changing nature of technology. It is relatively impossible to have total mastery of all technologies. If educators are uncomfortable using even the basic components of technology how can they be expected to readily adopt and promote newer technologies? Teachers who need the support should have regular technology training sessions. (Once mastery is shown the sessions should be optional.) Without school support it will fall entirely on the educator to explore new technologies on their own time with their own resources. Incentives or mandates need to be in place to give teachers that push they need to explore and understand new technologies. Many forms of social software can be utilized by educators that can be used to effectively communicate with students, parents, and fellow educators. (see #3) Basically I think teachers need to know what technology is out there and how to use it.
3.) Making Connections Through Web 2.0: Between Parents and Teachers, Teachers and Teachers, Teachers and Students, etc.Edit
Web 2.0 technologies have the potential to be extremely powerful communication tools. Properly used, teachers could foster a new level of parent/teacher communication and understanding. Teachers could go so far as to broadcast (podcast) their entire school day with the children. This would allow parents to see what material was addressed and the method the teacher used. A driven and involved parent would then have the ability to reinforce at home what was taught and even add to the experience through further study and exploration. Web 2.0 parents could even post or send the home experiences back to the teacher to use to strengthen their current and future lessons. This would be just one example of how the parent could become a valuable member of the learning community that is their child’s classroom. Another easy example would be for absent students really being able to see what they missed and “make it up”. Teacher communication with the student could be improved as well. With a posting setup (such as wiki) teachers could lay the framework of lessons taught during the day and students could fill in their understanding or lack thereof for peers, teachers, and parents to benefit from and address. Assuming lessons were digitally recorded/transmitted, teachers (and even future teachers) could benefit from viewing successful lessons (or even what pitfalls to avoid with unsuccessful ones). A concern about digitally broadcasting class every day might be teachers becoming even more afraid to take chances/risks or on occasion even be wrong. A malicious viewer could potentially create a greatest hits volume of just how unprepared, wrong, and unfit the teacher is over the course of a full year(s). Elements taken out of context could cost people their jobs! Used properly and with mutual understanding and goodwill the integration of Web 2.0 technologies into the classroom could have a profoundly positive impact on education.
4.) The Future of Accountability? -- Dumbing down the test? Incentives for Passing?Edit
Barring the tests “dying” and going away efforts need to be made to make tests into a more meaningful and authentic assessment (see #5). I feel testing is a huge issue as I have been an educator during the dawn of testing era. Not that tests were never given, or in place, but state standard tests have greatly altered education in a public school setting. The “passing fad” seems to have taken root and twisted up our tree of knowledge. Test scores are now the primary measure of a teacher’s worth and the overall worth of the school. Schools are now held accountable through the No Child Left Behind Act so essentially if the scores aren’t good enough people lose jobs, doors close, or both. Administrators are literally telling their teachers to teach to the test. I repeat teach to the test! This has now become the face of modern education. As “valuable” as these tests have now become to a school’s survival there are no real incentives for students to perform any better than the minimum requirements. 70% is the new ceiling for student knowledge. As long as the student can answer 70% of what a multiple choice test asks they are ready to progress and their teacher has done their job. So what about the students who haven’t hit that 70% mark and never will? Do we just lower the standards? Do we just wink and slide them on through? Knowledge can be demonstrated in a variety of ways and hard as we may try not everyone expresses themselves in exactly the same way. I’m still waiting for the creativity standards to be added to the curriculum. Quantifying one’s ability to draw, sing, etc. should be quite interesting to see. People learn and express their knowledge and understanding in a variety of ways. It is up our government both national and state to see that knowledge is being assessed in an appropriate and “fair” manner.
5.) Tests may be expedient, but they might not be authentic.Edit
So here’s the million or even billion dollar question how do we test everyone in an authentic manner? Will a multiple choice test tell you what a person knows? Yes and no. A multiple choice can tell you many aspects of a person’s understanding but not all. You will be able to find out if they can read (unless they just guess and fill in bubbles randomly). You will be able to see their ability to analyze and make decisions based on the situations given (again if not guessing not to mention cheating – oh I just did). You can a bare bones view of their understanding of the factual situation presented. Also the hand-eye coordination of filling in the correct bubble that corresponds to the correct letter is heavily assessed (a skill now developed in the first grade). So yes you can find out a bit about a student’s ability to recall facts and to analyze basic situations. I say basic because in a multiple choice test the answer is there. The path is already set all they need to do is some basic analysis of the situation. The true power of testing lies in authentic assessment. Basically present students with open-end questions or scenarios and have them show you how they would deal with it. It’s a true assessment of what they really know and can do but will it ever be the mainstay? Probably not until software has evolved to the point that it will be able to analyze and assess unique responses will authentic assessment be conducted on anything beyond a small scale only.