US Secretary of Ed Question #3: Preparation for Achievement

3. In what ways can technology help us prepare our children for global competition and reach our goals of eliminating achievement gaps and having all students read and do math on grade level by 2014?

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Note: This is the third of four questions being posted. For those in the U.S., Secretary Spellings has asked for ideas on the integration of technology in education. There is a form on the ed.gov site, but no ability to dialog or even leave your contact information if you fill it out. Therefore, I have created a forum thread for each of Secretary Spellings' questions, and propose that we discuss them here and invite her office to view the dialog on this website and even participate. This is a terrific opportunity to not only respond but to also show the benefit of Web 2.0 technology in addressing this kind of issue.

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Technology can help us retrain our teachers to teach in ways that will prepare students for the global economy. We have paper trained teachers teaching in a videogame world. The old methods just don’t reach the brains of today. Our teachers need new methods and the digital tools to present the new information. We need to outfit our classrooms, and give our teachers the professional development they need to transform teaching and learning.
Meg Ormiston
meg@techteachers.com
www.techteachers.com
Technology provides the means for students to be able to collaborate with students all over the world. It opens up a new world for everyone and provides platforms for communication. With the inception of Web 2.0 applications like Classroom 2.0, our students are able to become involved in projects designed to provide authentic learning experiences in all subjects. Virtual worlds and field trips have the ability to provide our students with current information and different perspectives from all over the world. Websites like:
virtual field trips
can give our students exposure to places and ideas never before possible in an enclosed classroom.
What actually needs to happen is to reform teacher preparation programs to reflect current and emerging technologies and their benefits in the classroom. Professional development opportunities for educators need to be expanded and offered in a timely manner.
Many experiences exist for our students that never before were possible. Our educators need to be provided with the means to give them to our students, our future.
Students now have the ability to Blog on any topic or subject and should be encouraged to do this.
I think that global “cooperativeness” should be our goal. But that aside, I think that technology empowers teachers and learners. It provides a real window on the world that we are teaching our children about, and appropriately used, it gives them first hand access to that world where they learn by becoming explorers and experimenters, problem solvers and communicators.

Learning is personal, and the windows that connect learners with what they wish or are required to learn, must also be personal.

It seems that challenged learners, who are empowered with personal access to the world, will want to learn. Challenged learners who are disempowered by seat time, taught to, programmed, and scripted delivery, will not want to succeed.
The future belongs to those who have the capacity to sort through and evaluate vast quantities of information. People who know how to find high-quality information will have a distinct advantage. This training must begin at a young age and continue through a life time.

Information is accumulating more rapidly than at any previous time in human history. Some say information doubles every three years. The rate of accumulation is accelerating. How do we equip our citizens to process it all?

So that they can make informed and responsible decisions, students of today must have highly-trained tecnological truth-finding abilities. Think of the decisions they will make in their lifetimes. Think of how interconnected this world has become--decisions made in one place will often have global consequences.

We don't just want to prepare our children for global competition; we want to prepare them for global cooperation. Both of these ends can only be served if students grow up to be citizens who are well-informed. To become and to stay well-informed, people must know how to use the tools that enable finding, evaluating, synthesizing, and processing information. It's a tall order, but we can do this.
Expand beyond reading and math. Thought they are foundational for many other life tasks, they are too small of a scale in determining successful individuals who effectively contribute to society. Examine the efforts of One Laptop Per Child, and the benefits students in these regions are reaching at early ages. Having text books on computers, enabling visual representation of lessons, and other great learning experiences can be gained with technology embedded throughout curriculum.
Technology enables more people to take a leadership role in helping kids move through school and into careers than just teachers, principals and parents. It enables people who are frustrated with the existing school bureaucracy to create alternative paths to reach kids and inspire them with learning. It enables people to create structures that expand the network of adults surrounding kids living in poverty, and to keep these adults connected for many years as kids grow up to the stage when they need a wider network of adults to help them find job interviews and negotiate career and adult life journeys.

If school leaders embrace this concept, they and the students in their schools can create community portals that serve as a meeting place between community based organizations, business leaders, teachers, parents and students. However, if such leadership does not come from schools, it can come from the community based organizations or the local businesses, with the same goals, and the same results.

We model this concept at http://www.tutormentorconnection.org
Technology allows for individual personal learning spaces with world-wide collaboration. The concept of "grade-level" should be discarded and replaced with personal goals and recorded progress toward those goals. Every child learns in different ways and at different paces - technology can be the vehicle to make this happen.
I wish the goals be achieved 100% by 2014. Ways to reach & teach ALL students to achieve ONE level of education are what everyone of us are searching. Cognitivie Pscychologists, experienced teachers, e-learning specialists and eminent educators should sit together, should work together to arrive at a suitable learning model to teach ALL students to achieve ONE level of education. I strongly believe it is possible and the goals are 100% achievable.
...prepare our children for global competition...
Foreign languages are the road leading to better familiarity with people, lives and times different to ourselves. Anecdotally, it seems to be 3rd and 4th grade when vocational and avocational aspirations begin to take definite direction; although the opening Jesuit quote to the "49 Up" series by Michael Apted begins, "show me the boy of seven and I will show you the man." So then, how can Technology facilitate widespread experience of other languages/cultures for 9 and 10 year olds? The ways are multiple and run across the curriculum: art + music + social studies + language arts/film (in translation or "as is").
In a few words: interactivity, engagement & the self-paced exploratory mode that personal computers do so well should be the signal strength to focus on.
Technology is increasingly becoming a part of the peripheral nervous system. It is becoming how we think but more importantly, it is how our children think. To ask a child to set aside their cell phones, ipods, palms, video games, social networks and ubiquitous use of the internet is to ask them to amputate cognitive organs and continue to think. These tools are how they think and how they should think to be successful today and in the future. Change is growing at an exponential rate and only in a field like education could we be numb to the reality that we must change quickly if we are to adequately prepare our learners. The conversation must be fertile and ongoing and MUST take place in the web 2.0 places where kids are learning now.
OK, well one way to answer this question that will be obvious to this audience, but which I am not sure would really be taken as seriously by others as it should be, is to do so collaboratively with all of the different constituencies involved. Whether on a local level or nationally, we cannot expect to figure out how to teach the tools of collaboration if they are not used to determine the course right now.

Honestly, I don't think that there is enough expertise in any one group of individuals for a top-down mandate to be accepted or effective. A rigorous debate is needed, in which government officials, administrators, teachers, parents, and students can talk about what education should be, and how technology plays a part in that. And then be actively involved in the effort to implement in their local area.

And I know I'm beating a lone drum here, but I think we also have to agree that we're not all going to agree--people have different beliefs about education, and without recognizing the need for diversity to inform our solutions, we'll be missing the boat.
Technology can allow better communication between schools, universities, and industry. The lack of engineering, math, and science majors is alarming. The skills necessary for these careers need to be communicated to schools and then facilitated through professional development and funding. The achievement gap will be eliminated only when there is equity in technology. Some districts have teachers without computers and others provide laptops to every student. The federal government also needs to realize that ALL students will NEVER read on grade level. Perhaps a high percentage can be attained, and we should strive for it, but there is no need to set impossible goals.

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