Sunday, December 18, 2016

Betting On Public Education - Part 2

We don’t need more schools. We need the ones we have to have teachers with the skills and expertise necessary for today.


In my recent Twitter exchange with Stacey Childress , CEO of NewSchools Venture Fund, I said their publication, Reimagining Learning: A Big Bet on the Future of American Education  didn’t even mention #OER & was mostly about finance & governance of schools, not teaching and learning. Stacey said she disagreed but didn’t offer anything else beyond her best wishes on our efforts to improve teaching and learning. I appreciate her best wishes.


I think their proposal, or big bet, as they call it, is more focused on finance and governance than on teaching and learning because the word, teaching, is only used once in the entire document. It’s used in the sentence: “Most of our current K-12 schools were designed for a different time and purpose: teaching basic knowledge and skills to the vast majority of students destined for work in the early-to mid-20th century economy, with an elite few moving on to higher education.”


They talk about teaching only once when they propose a definition of the current system as being something that only works for an elite few moving on to higher education.”  Few teachers working in current schools think they’re teaching students who will be working in a early-to mid-20th century economy, with an elite few moving on to higher education.  Childress and Amrofell’s statement is an insult to all of the teachers who are working as hard as they can in today’s classrooms.


Childress and Amrofell are minimizing the work being done by today’s teachers in an effort to maximize their proposal for the 7% who go along with their view of how education should be.


They also make the outrageous claim that “Ed-tech is no silver bullet and will never be the primary mode of learning for most young people.” It most definitely is not a silver bullet, but technology is already the primary mode of learning for almost all people - both young and old. The issue is simply which technology and how effectively it’s used for teaching and learning.


We don’t need to spend $3 Billion to create new charter schools, or ‘redesign’ existing schools, or strengthen the ecosystem for innovation, or mobilize a diverse and effective coalition for change. Let’s just spend that $3 Billion to show our existing teachers how to use free digital OER curriculum on modern learning management systems with students who have wifi devices of their choice. Most schools already have the LMSs and students already have wifi devices.  We can use some of that $3 Billion for those students who don’t already have the devices, but most of the money should go to developing the skills and open pedagogical practice of the teachers who are already teaching in our classrooms.

Ubiquitous wifi, very affordable wifi devices, and digital OER are all very new. Using them in conjunction with any of the learning management systems that are getting better and better daily is the way to maximize the teaching corps and schools that we already have. Here’s a set of videos recently released by The Council of Chief State School Officers that explain what OER is and why it’s a good idea. The R & D portion of Childress and Amrofell proposal is not a bad idea but focusing more of it specifically on something that we already know has a good chance of returning positive results, OER, will strengthen the investment. I wouldn’t even call it a bet.

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