Field-Testing an Edutech Idea
By Katrina Schwartz
Our grandparents were schooled in what are now called “field-testing” — the idea that educators are the ones best qualified to “test” out the ideas of edutech. Today the term is definitely a thing, and “field-testing” can imply myriad strategies for learning: seeing things through a different filter or implementing cognitive-behavioral therapy before formal testing.
But when it comes to figuring out whether an idea could improve learning, teachers need to consider how their model of teaching works and what external factors they depend on to give a classroom-based model a test drive. How often do educators train and evaluate what changes they’re using to improve instruction? To what extent is the classroom a test drive in itself? And how is the teacher’s background, experience, and awareness of the lesson-planning system a factor?
These are questions that Michelle Kropac discusses in an article today in Development & Learning. The article explores a platform called Radical Growth that helps teachers and academics understand how to design powerful, changing ways of thinking about how to change teaching and learning. It also takes a look at these foundational questions, such as how schools function, what’s unique about classroom learning, and how programs like Radical Growth can empower teachers to be better leaders in schools. “Teachers today are still learning to use radical growth as a methodology,” Kropac writes. “So are many parents, administrators, and policymakers, who may be looking for a more radical approach to learning than the standardized ones.”
On a more fundamental level, “educators are only thinking about how to build things, but schools don’t give educators the time, or the resources, to really think of themselves as thinking engines, as builders,” Kropac notes. “[I]t is also important to look into how the learner is in the loop, whether students are directly answering questions, and if they can feel themselves in an authentic classroom learning space.” In the article, Kropac describes a technique she uses with students that involves them orchestrating a team to design a curriculum and then write a response on their whiteboard as questions arise during class time. The students choose their first, second, third, and fourth choice to be their teams, then elect to move on with their activities. “I think this is an important form of ‘thinking without structure,'” Kropac writes. “Trying all the things, exploring, and then folding things in and having them all be completely self-starters.”
-Read the full article here.