Changes Needed: New to Me, Imperfect and Outdated
As a parent, meeting the new-to-me standards seems daunting. As a teacher, sitting through an extension of geometry class seems like an eternity. Parents and educators alike struggle to integrate and learn the new standards, because the teaching isn’t aligned with the learning opportunities. These challenges have made the task of transitioning from traditional to digital education extremely daunting.
Now is the time for educators to choose where to focus their efforts. So, what are the top challenges educators and parents currently face?
No. 1: One-Size-Fits-All. Current instructional expectations could serve students throughout a range of backgrounds and incomes. The common core standards set the bar too high and give less attention to being culturally competent. Some states and the federal government have taken a laissez-faire approach with the standards’ development, leaving districts to adapt and model instruction to fit their specific challenges. This approach feels like an unneeded cost. More states and districts should take a collaborative, comprehensive approach to preparing students for the new standards.
No. 2: Decision Not Made By Me. Technology has introduced some ways of making learning more relevant to students. However, in some cases teachers cannot make the technological changes necessary to keep up with technology’s evolution. For example, in classroom technology “classrooms,” there is not room for just one teacher to operate three different computers. Employing virtual classrooms or off-site collaborative computers for a project allows an instructor to use a private network that provides more room for a larger individual, group or group of students.
No. 3: Assessments Are Outdated. Much of today’s assessment needs to be readjusted. While testing can offer a true measure of a student’s understanding, there is a greater need for technology-based ways of teaching students how to learn. Students need a simple, efficient way to apply what they are learning and are able to demonstrate their achievement using appropriate technology. Additionally, assessments should not be answered by the administration. Many of the state assessments are on obsolete systems and don’t take into account the different forms of technology (Tablets, computers, mobile, etc.) that are being used in classrooms today. The upcoming state exams in early 2017 should provide a great opportunity to develop assessment that clearly adapts to the computer-based environment.
No. 4: Struggling to Identify A Need. Many of the challenges I’ve already mentioned address a lack of engagement, disconnection or connectivity within classroom communities. While these are not major issues, I do believe technology could improve this situation. Students have access to many new programs, but they don’t necessarily receive more individualized help. The emergence of adaptive tutoring and virtual schools has solved this problem by personalizing instruction for students. This will go a long way in addressing other challenges too. My hope is that a majority of educators will choose to make our classrooms more open and welcoming in 2017 and create a culture of safety and support.
No. 5: Teaching is a Team Effort. Teachers can teach themselves if there is enough structure, accountability and support. Yet, district leaders are essential for this process. Allowing districts to meet individual needs has been and will continue to be a challenge for schools in the year ahead. To pull off this drastic shift in a district is no small feat, and it is imperative we think about the short- and long-term impact of forcing drastic, aggressive changes. Long-term, this requires a more thoughtful approach on the part of elected officials and the people running the districts and schools.
No. 6: Four Words: Brand New, Old and Boring. Consumers should expect a fresh, similar and new experience from a product or service. However, here, we are questioning why a curriculum was created. We are looking for the very opposite – a curriculum that is able to produce results through technology; something similar to the way we were taught. The emphasis on the two words: brand new, old and boring is a tall order, for sure. However, the new standards should provide tremendous opportunities to showcase 21st century skills and teach younger students how to effectively learn using technology.
As an educator, there is no better time to examine the new standards and think creatively about how to implement them. This is the year we can be creative and innovative and move beyond a traditional sense of art and movement to a more accessible focus on problem solving. The pedagogical community, in other words, needs to think outside the box and be on a mission to help us reach the next generation of learners to ensure they are prepared for success.