Sunday, May 27, 2007

Expectations in a Digital Age

Transparency and accountability: Isn't this what we want and expect from our students? Isn't what we should expect from our teachers as well?

Many years ago, when I was a younger teacher, I remember seeing a video that a student had shot surreptitiously during an Advanced Placement American Government final exam. On this video tape, I was able to witness a student 'body block' the teacher, other students tossing stacks of paper out the window and general mayhem throughout the 15-20 minute video. I discovered a few weeks later that the video tape found its way into the hands of the principal. This teacher quickly was transferred to another school, but to my amazement, this teacher continued to teach for several years after this incident. I understand the laws in California regarding 'tenure' or permanent status, I think they were needed in the past. The low pay of teachers and the desire to allow teachers some level of autonomy in the classroom, tenure laws were necessary to protect teachers from over zealous idealogues who permeated school boards. The pendulum has swung so far to the way of teacher protection that bad teachers can't be removed.

Now, I am asking the question, how do we fix the situation? I have had as a quote on this blog, "There is a big difference between teaching thirty years and teaching one year thirty times," but how do we balance the situation to build schools that rewards good teaching and either remediates or removes teachers who can't get the job done?

What are the professional expectations we have of teachers? Especially, what are the expectations of teachers to incorporate 21st Century technologies into their teaching repertoire? There are several issues that make this difficult to achieve, including: lack of quality professional development, availability of tools, etc., but we have to move forward and who is going to make sure teachers meet these standards? Administrators? Most administrators know even less about technology integration than teachers do and have absolutely no frame of reference to evaluate teachers in this area. The one other issue we haven't mentioned is the fact that teachers do have an ego. It may not be as large as a professional athlete's, but they do not want to be corrected by one of their students, under any circumstances.

So, we are in a time warp... We have students that are consuming the media as fast as it can be produced, teachers unwilling to integrate technologies that will allow their students to become self-initiated learners and administrators who believe a PowerPoint presentation is the pinnacle of technology integration. (Don't laugh, I have had administrators tell me that they beleive that a PowerPoint is an advanced use of technology.)

Sorry for the rant... but if we are going to move forward in education in this country, we need to look at information differently. There is a difference between possessing information and the ability to manipulate the information students have access to. We are still teaching students to possess information, instead of being able to quickly manipulate it for their benefit.

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