Thompson: Using Technology to Empower Great Teachers
If I had a magic wand, I would gladly implement the vision presented by Bryan and Emily Hassel in Teaching in the Age of Digital Instruction. I would not work that magic until after granting other requests for more important educational miracles, such as creating high-quality early education and restoring the power of unions. After all, Hassel and Hassel virtually ignore poverty and their theories will have no chance in urban districts until we institute an even more complicated set of aligned socio-emotional supports. And, the Hassels seem to realize that their grand agenda will be stillborn unless teachers unions are empowered along the lines of the motion picture industry's unions.
I also suspect that America's best districts, serving our most privileged students, will adopt many of their ideals and that progress will occur fairly rapidly. After all, I suspect that affluent districts will soon free themselves from the retrograde test-driven accountability movement that the Hassels acknowledge is undermining the quest for better instructional systems. In districts that do not feel impelled to defeat teachers, technology will allow charismatic teachers to have greater influence. Others should be allowed to teach to their strengths, whether it means they are tutoring, lecturing, modeling, mentoring or teaching basic skills. Technology will also create more lower-paid positions, and eventually savings will accrue.
Embattled urban districts, however, have much greater incentives for busting highly-paid teachers down to lab monitors, and claiming it was because those teachers were ineffective. Moreover, greed is likely to encourage profit-driven charter systems to rely on digital worksheets.
I suspect that the Hassels would agree that it is a tragedy that school "reform" has wasted our digital miracles by using them to leap into the early 20th century. I just wish, however, they would take an unambiguous stand with teachers against test-driven accountability so we can build schools worthy of the 21st century. (Hat tip to Andy Smarick for the link.)-JT(@drjohnthompson) Image via.