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Thompson: Using Technology to Empower Great Teachers

Education-Raform-for-Digital-Era-e1335551150701If 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. 

Districts that already are great will not be pressured to rush the process and maximize short-term gains.  They will use technology to improve teaching and learning. Cost savings will be gravy.

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


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I'm a little disappointed with the incoherence of this post. The argument seems to be that the severity of poverty will prevent technology from having a positive effect, but not only is there no evidence for this, the opposite is more likely to be true. I think Thompson would agree that the current system in failing to help children in poverty. Given this outcome, the change most likely to help children in poverty won't involve enhancements to the current system (more teacher empowerment), but radical changes to the current system (more computer-based instruction.)

Then there's the canard about profit-driven charter systems. These are only a tiny part of the charter sector and most states are working to increase regulations. If Thompson believes that CMOs like KIPP are willing to jeopardize student achievement in order to give their high ranking employees higher salaries, he's not living in the same reality as everybody else.

Finally, I'm not sure what all the asides about teacher control have to do with anything. Thompson appears to be trying to use the assumption that teachers should have more power in order to prove that teachers should have more power.

I don't worry about KIPP KIPP has great record with just over 100 schools, and it wouldn't sacrifice its reputation anyway. The whole world isn't made of KIPPster educators with integrity.

Did you read this week's Washington Post about more than 100 6th graders in a class at Harte? Yeah, that'll work.

If teachers can't be trusted to have control, why trust non-teachers?

There a really a huge number of great and really smart teachers and they must be also updated on what the current technology has. The new era has several changes that will definitely empower a lot of teacher worldwide. Online programs have been present where teacher can teach students without personal meeting them.

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