This is part two of a new blog series where I want to take a closer look at the newly released National Education Technology Plan. I outline my plan for this series in this post.
Part Three: Teaching, Prepare and Connect
Section Goal: Professional educators will be supported individually and in teams by technology that connects them to data, content, resources, expertise, and learning experiences that can empower and inspire them to provide more effective teaching for all learners.
We now get to how technology can be used to transform and revitalize the teaching profession. This section is the one I have connected to the most, thus far. I felt it made a lot of solid points and paints a good picture of the ability of technology to improve teaching as well as the quality of life for those with the hardest jobs of all- classroom teachers.
What I liked
- I like the ideas centered around connected teaching. Technology really does allow us to connect and grow in ways never seen before. The chance to connect to other teachers in your field as well as content experts is a big deal. I definitely like how this entire section pushes educators in this direction. We all need to be heading this way, and those systems that figure this out sooner will be ahead of the game.
- Now, it's not enough to simply connect. There has to be depth behind the connections being made, if they're to have any real impact in the classroom. That's why I like the time this section spends on the reflective process. I feel that this is where blogging can have such a large impact as a growth area for teachers. The chance to publish their reflections on their practices is a huge component to growth and will amplify whatever professional development is already in place. If I ran a school, we'd all be blogging together and inviting each other into our thinking.
- This section focused a lot on teacher prep programs. I strongly agree that this is one area in education that needs a lot of attention, especially in the realm of effective technology integration for learning. I liked this passage because it's something I've seen with my own eyes on a near daily basis: "Young teachers are similar to their students in that they have grown up in a world where laptops, cell phones, and handheld gaming devices are commonplace...They are as comfortable interacting with digital devices and accessing the Internet as their students are. Still, this does not mean they understand how to use the technology of their daily lives to improve their teaching practices." (p. 44) This is very true, in my experience. It points to the fact that before we worry so much about effective technology use, we need to make sure new teachers are strong teachers...period.
What I didn't like
- There is a movement mentioned in this section that makes me a bit queasy. On p. 47, the plan mentions that "colleges of education will be held accountable for the effectiveness of their graduates..." I've seen this idea floating around for a couple years now- that there will soon be studies that show the effectiveness of teachers, delineated by their alma maters. Now, I want to be clear- I actually think the underlying premise of this is strong. It would be interesting to see and be able to compare how certain colleges prepare their teacher grads. I think if it were done right, this could be a powerful motivator for schools of education across the country to really start doing things differently. The problem I have is that, once again, I'm sure the "accountability" mentioned will be based pretty strongly on standardized test scores. You can't use something as broken as standardized testing to measure effective teaching strategies. You just....can't. It flies directly in the face of everything this particular section says should be happening in the teaching profession. It makes no sense to measure effective teaching with rote, fill-in-the-bubble tests.
- The other major problem I had with this section comes on page 48. In three short paragraphs (half a page), a section on "closing the technology gap in teaching" is addressed. Well, I'm sorry- but folks, this is the single greatest challenge we have in utilizing effective technology integration in schools. There are simply a ton of teachers that do not feel the impetus or do not have the SUPPORT to tackle technology effectively with their students. Without support, leadership, and perseverance, all of the wonderful things in this plan will fail. And there is half a page on this issue. That ain't good.
I felt like this section really described a powerful model for teaching in the 21st century. I like the focus on connecting with other educators and learning and reflecting together. I think the plan is right when it takes a hard look at teacher prep programs. While I had some misgivings in this section, I feel it was the strongest yet.