This post is a trial for some of the ideas I'm putting in an article. It might be a bit sketchy since I haven't thought the whole thing out yet, but bear with me…if it turns out any good, you can say, “I knew the article when it was just a twinkle in its Daddy's eye.”
Here's a news flash, education is changing. Though I continue to believe that the majority of children will continue to participate in traditional day school (where else are we going to put them?), what takes place in that traditional framework in a short time will have limited resemblance to what we have known as school.
There are numerous causes for this change, but one can't ignore the role of the growth and proliferation of technology in all parts of our culture. Given this reality (whether good or bad) it becomes more and more anachronistic to teach students in a technology-free environment. Once this technology becomes available, the entire reality of school changes from an environment of information scarcity, where a teacher is valued for what he or she knows, to an environment of information abundance, where a teacher is valued for her or his ability to curate information and provide guidance to students.
Another major shift to the education landscape is the introduction of the k-12 common core standards. Quick background for anyone unfamiliar. Each state has had a separate set of academic standards, but during the past decade, an effort was made to unify these into a single set to be embraced by all the states. Currently they are in the process of adoption by 46 states (for those who must know, Texas, Alaska, Virginia, and Nebraska). While these standards for language arts and math contain much of the same content as earlier state standards, there is a reorganization by grade level and focus on depth over breadth. In short, the grade by grade organization of curriculum is going to change for all students in all schools (except Texas, Nebraska, Virginia, and Alaska).
Unsurprisingly, these two areas of (r)evolution have not been greeted with universal joy and acclaim by all teachers and administrators. If the basic needs of the human are food, clothing, and shelter, the basic needs of the educator are stability, predictability, and immutability. This is understandable; leading a group of young people can be challenging (some would say terrifying), and the best defenses for a teacher are comfort, confidence, and routine.
Though it is not possible to put the changes back inside the box, as much as I might wish for 1988 to return, the presentation of and reaction to these twin terrors exacerbates, rather than solves the problem. We see edtech integration and common core integration as two problems, when actually it is one challenge, and a great opportunity.
To resort to my literature background (which is strongly deemphasized in the new common core standards to the great deiment of humankind), most educators see this as a Scylla and Charybdis. In the Odyssey, these were two monsters on opposite sides of the Strait of Messina. A ship faced destruction from one or the other, but could not avoid both. Similarly, many educators see edtech and common core as two opposing monsters attacking from either side, each providing a distinct and unavoidable challenge.
A better response from administrators and teachers would be to see this as one problem, rather than two. If we let go of the shore of today and fear of change, we can actually use Scylla to slay Charybdis (for the younger readers, see this as Wonder Twin power). Technological tools are well suited to present and assess the new standards, so we use one to embrace the other. Suddenly the teacher and student participate in one transformative process rather than two tasks.
As always, I invite your comments.
Image credits: 'Scylla, Charybdis and their neighbor Sylvia'