We’re dealing with 100-year-old conditions in American classrooms today that simply have not changed. There have been changes in educational standards and assessments, but what goes on in the classroom hasn’t changed.
This goes to the heart of the teacher’s work life.
Teachers work in the classroom by themselves and behind closed doors. They usually don’t work with others. So, for the most part, there isn’t a lot of opportunity during the school day or week or month for teachers to collaborate with their peers or colleagues. And they only get two or three opportunities each year for feedback — and this is generally tied to continued employment.
Looking at this educational isolation, it’s hard to grow in your job as a teacher when you work alone. But Teaching Channel, an free web-site, helps break through this isolation, which is clearly very restrictive.
In terms of the lack of feedback, most people who try something new in the classroom become novices again, and novices hardly execute the right way the first time. That’s why people need a lot of feedback to explore, learn and master something to full advantage. Teachers, as I’ve mentioned, don’t get nearly enough feedback — and they need it.
They also want it. The sad fact here is that teachers truly want to learn from others. They believe that their peers and colleagues have much to offer in the way of expertise, and they’d like to collaborate. But this isn’t happening the way most faculty members want it to.
Fortunately, though, new technologies can help address these issues quickly.
The availability of high-quality video, for example, can be a real inspiration as it shows off how a great classroom strategy is executed. Video allows reflection and it’s definitely an evidence-based tool. Indeed, there’s a tremendous difference between recollecting what a teacher did in a classroom as opposed to seeing what actually happened. Teaching Channel’s interactive collaboration platform allows teachers to video tape themselves in action, share that with peers, both give and receive feedback so that they can keep growing.
I also like the way tens of millions of teachers, parents and students are connecting on Edmodo to collaborate on assignments and/or to discover new resources. Common Sense Media is another company that provides a host of resources, tools and examples about how teachers can use new technologies wisely and well to support their learning and their students.
The take-away is that these technology platforms help the mysteries of teaching in a classroom become much more explicit and transparent.
Over the past 15 years, the United States has spent billions of dollars in developing new educational standards and assessment. But we haven’t invested in teachers; nor have we invested in the cutting-edge digital tools they need to grow in the classroom and serve students better.
So, going forward, we absolutely have to provide teachers with new technology to help them develop their professional expertise. Now, we just have to deliver the right hardware and software solutions to the classroom and let the enriched learning begin.
Pat Wasley is the Chief Executive Officer for Teaching Channel. She began her education career as a public school teacher in the U.S. and Australia. And she has been a public school administrator, researcher, university professor and dean of both the Bank Street Graduate School of Education and the University of Washington College of Education. Along the way, she has served in a variety of roles to understand how to prepare and support teachers as they develop an ever-growing and sophisticated repertoire of approaches for working with children. In addition, she is the author of numerous articles and several books on school reform, including Teachers Who Lead and Stirring the Chalkdust. She is also co-author of Kids and School Reform, which investigates the relationship between school change and students’ academic achievement. In her role at Teaching Channel, she continues to collaborate with teachers across the United States and in other countries to improve conditions that enable them to be more successful in educating children.
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