It’s the best and worst time to teach

It is the best of times — and the worst of times — to be a teacher, writes Justin Reich on Education Week‘s EdTech Researcher.

In his seventh-grade U.S. History class, students had a textbook and a primary source reader with 20 documents, Reich writes.

Today, a history teacher can choose from the millions of documents archived online by thousands of libraries and archives around the world, including not just texts but images, audio recordings, film clips, and ephemera.

Students can create “multimedia performances of their understanding” and “share their work with peers and audiences around the world.”

It has never been easier for educators to connect with one another, to share best practices, to see best practices from around the country or around the globe, and to connect across schools with teachers who share our subjects, or our interests, or our peculiar circumstances. Never before has the fraternity of teachers been more connected.

Yet teacher “morale is at a 20 year nadir”  as “narrow content standards and high-stakes testing pushes ever more teachers towards an ever narrower, test-focused curriculum,” Reich writes.

Audrey Watters’ annual review of trends in education technology lamented that “technology — like schooling — is something we do TO kids.”

“So, we face a moment where technology dramatically widens the scope of educational feasibility while policy dramatically narrows the scope of classroom possibility,” concludes Reich.

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  1. Roger Sweeny says:

    “technology — like schooling — is something we do TO kids.”

    Really? Next thing Watters is going to try to tell me is that water is wet, or ice is cold.

    Most young people do not go to school because they have an inherent desire to learn history, literature, and chemistry. This means that the “scope of educational feasibility” is pretty narrow and is always going to be pretty narrow, no matter how laws and technology change.

    We in education have this comforting delusion that if we only find the right techniques and the right technology, we can make young people want to learn what we want to teach them. Then they WILL learn and they will enjoy the learning.

    Ain’t gonna happen. Maybe if we looked at young people honestly and set some realistic goals …

  2. Instead of creating “multimedia performances of their understanding”, I’d rather have students actually write papers, both long and short, with suitable references. Far too few students write well and know how to construct or refute an argument and back it up with supporting data. They don’t know how to analyze opposing viewpoints. They don’t even know the difference between “I think” and “I feel”; analytical writing would clarify that.

    • Momof4, I couldn’t agree more about the importance of writing. A little multimedia goes a long way—and too often it stresses process over content. It’s along the same lines as teaching “twenty-first century skills.”

  3. Deirdre Mundy says:

    I wonder if one of the reasons teacher morale is so low is because student behavior has taken a nosedive, parents don’t care, and administrators blame the teachers for the results of a lifetime of no discipline in the home? All the technological advances in the world won’t make your job pleasant if you spend 7 hours a day facing down 30 rude, crude and disrespectful people at a time. Even in fast food, you get breaks!

  4. “Students can create ‘multimedia performances of their understanding’ and ‘share their work with peers and audiences around the world.’ ” And “It has never been easier for educators to connect with one another, to share best practices”.

    The only problem is that teachers are being forced to test students to see if they are actually learning anything, something this author seems completely unconcerned with.

  5. Richard Aubrey says:

    We wouldn’t be in this high-stakes testing environment if society hadn’t become increasingly dissatisfied with K-12’s results in literacy and numeracy.