16 June 2013

Enhanced Education on Both Sides of the Desk

How others try to fix it
As I scan through news and blogs about education, one thing is quite clear: people are not happy with either schools, teachers, legislators, or all of the above.

So far I've experience or witnessed only a few actual efforts to fix it: (1) Offer bonuses to "good" teachers. (2) Create new metrics and new requirements for teachers to reach. (3) Continually add more tests.

(1) Money won't motivate teachers to be good. If anything, it'll likely turn good teachers bad and cause bad teachers to jump through hoops better. (2) I don't know about anyone else, but studying for and passing the Praxis PLT didn't make me a better teacher. It did make me more aware of a myriad of things I should probably do better, but just because I know how to pass a test doesn't mean I know how to do anything. (3) Some places are already acknowledging the error of too much testing. Hopefully others follow suit.

There, I've settled all debate.

An ideal solution
In my short career I've come to the conclusion that only two things could possibly help the education system. (There are a number of things I would change, but only two real, comprehensive solutions.) First, you simply pay teachers more. All of them. The good, the bad, and the gym teachers. It wouldn't take long for more qualified people to realize that there's a good living to be made in teaching, and suddenly principals would be picking out of a pool full of highly capable teachers. It could take a while, but eventually all the truly bad teachers will be replaced.

Unfortunately, this is highly unlikely. There isn't nearly enough money in the government to create that kind of raise. (It's all being sucked up by the IRS, subsidies, gargantuan district personnel, and Scrooge McDuck's pool.) So when a good teacher finds herself working far more hours than she's paid for, she starts looking for a new job before she burns out.

Our only hope
So if we can't pay them more, the only option left is to make their job easier. By reducing the workload, good teachers might avoid burning out. They'll enjoy their job more without having to worry about the petty tasks to perform. They'll spend more time helping students individually and less time doling out assessments. If they can't survive on their meager salary, they'll have enough time and energy after school and during summer, when they used to be grading and preparing, to find other ways to make money.

Well-designed technology integration is what will make our jobs easier. A combination of tools to create the perfect blended learning model. It includes online video (well-produced hybrid interactive video lecture-quizzes), LMS (learning management systems to organize and speed things up), automatic tasks (automated feedback and reminders), social learning (peer assessment and feedback), game-based learning (using game mechanics and reward systems to motivate completion of simple but necessary tasks), and more.

My goal this summer, besides working on lesson plans and such, will be to find the best tools to enhance education on both sides of the desk. I'm going to find and/or create the best ways to make learning more fun and natural for students, and less demanding but more rewarding for teachers.

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