Gilan Menegat began her high school teaching career in North Bend. After 15 years as a social science and language arts instructor, she earned her educational administration credential and moved into administration at the North Clackamas School District’s central office. After receiving her doctoral degree in Educational Leadership from Lewis & Clark College, she began working as an educational researcher and consultant for the Oregon Department of Education, Marylhurst University, as well as other organizations. Since 2012, she has supported the TeachCentralOregon consortium as a Chalkboard coach.
The word “mentor” evokes a variety of definitions…one who provides a model of desired behavior, one who offers advice to someone less experienced, a guide, a supporter.
Like many teachers new to the profession, I sought a “mentor” during my first year of teaching. She was a veteran who taught down the hall. Our relationship was informal and based on finding common times to chat. It is fair to say we developed a friendship, and she was a champion for my success. She addressed my concerns, offered ideas, gave me materials, and heard my frustrations. I listened to what I assumed was sage advice, and I tried to follow her suggestions. No doubt, she helped me survive my first year of teaching. Knowing what I know now about formal mentoring programs, I question the value-added of this “mentoring experience” beyond that of having a sounding board. I am grateful for her time and compassion, but I realize I grew very little professionally as a result of our interactions. We never addressed my actual instructional practice. She never asked me questions about my goals, strengths, or areas of concern. I wonder how much more rapidly I would have developed as a teacher had I been a part of a formal mentoring program?
After teaching fifteen years, I shifted my professional focus to public school leadership, teacher preparation, educational consulting, and research. During this portion of my career journey, I was introduced to formal mentor training offered by the New Teacher Center in Santa Cruz. I reviewed the literature surrounding mentoring practices and the characteristics of successful mentoring programs. And, I had the good fortune to participate in several research projects where I spoke at length with mentors and novices about their experiences in formal programs. Time and again I heard novices speak of the benefits they received from their professional mentors and the growth mentors observed in the professional practice of their protégés. The findings of numerous scholars in the field were echoed in my personal observations of mentoring programs.
The evidence is clear. We know what a professional mentoring program is and is not. It is not a buddy system consisting of casual conversations between a new teacher and a well-intending, full-time classroom teacher. It is an intentionally designed and supported program with common characteristics. Among a multitude of possible features, successful professional mentoring programs have commonalities including:
- Professional development for mentors to advance specific skills,
- Professional development for mentors to advance specific skills,
- Dedicated release time from classroom responsibilities so that mentors can focus on developing their protégés’ professional practices,
- A formal structure including scheduled contact between mentors and novices,
- Collection and analysis of observational data guided by the novices’ growth goals, and
- Regular opportunities for mentors to share ideas and problem-solve with their peers.
Enough of the academic speak…Perhaps the best way to appreciate the value of formal mentoring is to hear the voices of novice teachers as they reflect on their mentoring experiences. All quotes are from interviews I conducted with teachers during their first year as program participants.
“Having a mentor who was my confidante and my friend, and not a supervisor, was the most important to me…I needed someone I could talk to, who was safe…someone who understood me.”
“My mentor has helped me design lesson plans based on student needs…She has also helped me see how important my assessments are both summative and formative.”
“By the end of the year, I felt like a successful teacher….I was challenged to do more than I thought I could…I think that was because of the mentoring program. I would have gotten stuck in what was comfortable in my first year…it was scary to do all those new things. Because I had a supporter, I was able to push myself to try new things.”
“She [the mentor] helped me make teaching more of a science rather than just ‘what felt good.’ I knew my lessons were driven by good data.”
Mentoring programs are an essential element in the successful transition of teachers from pre-service to their own classrooms. Each new Oregon teacher deserves the support and opportunity for growth from a robust professional mentoring program. Anything less, is shortchanging our novice teachers and the students they teach. For more details about the implementation of formal mentoring programs contact TeachOregon school districts such as Bend, David Douglas, Madras, Salem, and Tillamook.
Cindy Ziesemer is in her 27th year as an Oregon-licensed teacher. This is her tenth year employed in the Silver Falls School District and first year as a mentor with Dr. Marie Ballance in Mt. Angel and Silver Falls districts.
Dr. Marie Ballance has worked in education since 2000 in public and private schools and at the university level. She was hired by Silver Falls and Mount Angel School Districts in 2013 to mentor beginning teachers and administrators and describes mentoring as “the best job in the world.”
If the development of strong teachers was a mechanical process, perhaps mentors would be project engineers. Engineers take an existing process or commodity and improve it, increasing quality and outcomes with more efficient, streamlined efforts. When this concept is applied to improving human educators, mentors fill that role, recognizing what good teaching looks like, helping to retool and redefine new teachers toward more rapid mastery of the art.
Tradesmen have tool belts; mentors carry a bag of tricks. Consumable notebooks and pens are used to capture pages full of observation data aimed at improving or validating classroom practice. Tissues, hard candies, office supplies, timers, healthy snacks are must-haves for mentors and their mentees. Lesson planners, calendars, building schedules, mileage logs and laptops accompany mentors for their daily work on-the-move covering K-12 teachers and administrators. Logistical needs aside, the most necessary tools take no physical space but must be in constant use – professional and interpersonal rapport, confidentiality, flexibility, creativity. Mentors search and research to connect mentees with people and resources to improve their craft and foster personal well-being on a daily basis.
For instance, it is week sixteen of the school year when the mentor walks into Jack’s classroom. As a secondary math teacher, Jack understands his content but he is learning the art of teaching. His mentor regularly sits with Jack, discussing classroom management strategies, creating lesson plans, analyzing student work, and finding resources to make the instruction more engaging. In the course of sixteen weeks, the mentor has observed and had conversations about instructional practice at least fourteen times. Each week, the careful engineer of educators tries a new tact to show Jack vital components to effective instruction: creating a thorough agenda, using “I can” statements and formative assessment, and positive classroom management based on healthy boundaries and relationships. And each week, Jack deftly maneuvers around the suggestions. It is as if he does not want to change his habits so newly adopted as a beginning teacher. Week 16 is when the mentor begins to despair. At that moment, walking into the classroom, the mentor looks up and notices that there is an agenda on the board. The “I can” statement is written in student-friendly language. Jack is using a timer to keep transitions smooth and short and keep the pace of the lesson moving along briskly. In their conversation at the end of the lesson, Jack says “I really resisted these suggestions, but last weekend I started thinking that this might be the change I was looking for to help my students. We’ve been using ‘I can’ and assessments for the past three days and I already feel better about my instruction!” The patience and determination of the mentor made a difference in the lives of that teacher and students.
Ouside the school day, mentors provide hours of professional development training, and encourage participation in a range of formal and informal activities to weave new teachers into the fabric of the community. Such training can take place informally – trouble-shooting technical difficulties with a grading system might take place over tea, or problem-solving communication challenges in a PLC (professional learning community) might occur during a late afternoon walk. Mentors also offer formal professional development in the form of seminars that happen on a monthly or bi-weekly basis. The topics of all the trainings are fluid, determined only a week or two in advance. Like teachers, mentors constantly and consistently use formative assessment to determine the learning needs of their students (mentees) and adjust lesson plans to meet those needs.
Research shows that beginning teachers who have a mentor are more likely to believe their instructional practices have improved and they are more satisfied with their jobs, leading to higher teacher retention rates (New Teacher Center, http://www.newteachercenter.org/impact). If we wish to recruit, retain, and raise high-quality, effective beginning teachers, mentor programs are vital to the educational system.
Iris Chavez serves on the Chalkboard staff as temporary project manager working alongside work groups and partners involved with the implementation of HB3499—addressing implementation associated with the recently passed English language learners (ELL) funding.
She is also representing Chalkboard with the community partner, Oregon Alliance for Educational Equity. Previously, Iris served as government affairs director for Stand for Children, Oregon, and before that, was assistant field director at The Education Trust in Washington, D.C.
If you’re a student at David Douglas you’re surrounded by some of the top educators and administrators in Oregon and getting access to innovative solutions in language access in the early grades. David Douglas’s effort to provide “Language For All” was recently highlighted in a project sharing district profiles from New America’s Dual Language Learners National Work Group.
In the David Douglas School District (DDSD), big things are happening for students who are English learners. The district was just recognized for having met language targets for English learners, two years running, by the state Department of Education and we’re here to discuss how they’re getting this work done.
In David Douglas nearly one in ten students are classified as dual language learners (which is twice the national average) and over 70 languages are spoken by these students, and their families. With particular elementary schools showing over 30% of students classified as dual language learners (DLL), DDSD realized that a pull-out model for language development was taking too many kids out of academic instruction each day. As the district explored how best to serve their DLL students they recognized that for any program change to be successful, long-term, it would need to be done in tandem with changes in policy, funding and how they utilize community resources. So, in recent years DDSD has done all that! They’ve flipped their English language development model on its head, with a push-in model, enhanced collaboration with community partners & parents, blended funding streams (and found new ones), and is closely monitoring implementation. They call it the Language for All model.
What does Language for All mean?
On instruction: instead of pulling all DLL students out of their academic classrooms for language development each day, schools are setting aside daily blocks of time for oral language development and ALL elementary school students participate. During this block of time students are placed in groups with others who have roughly similar levels of English language proficiency (so, some students do move to other classrooms to find their peers) and teachers are able to provide more targeted instruction that supports the group’s language development needs. This model has the added benefit of recognizing that, particularly in the early grades, all students are language learners and it removes the barriers between DLL-classified students and their peers.
On implementation: In 2012, after the district had begun the pilot for the DLL model state budget cuts threatened to hinder the effort. After careful thought, the district instead decided to speed up implementation and got creative about how to utilize their current staff to do so! David Douglas asked some English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers to take lead teacher roles and others to be language coaches to support teachers’ implementation of the new ELD instructional block. With this new structure, schools that had previously needed several ESL teachers now only needed one language coach. The district also began to think about how they can use federal Title I funds to support this work and they’re now hiring reading specialists who work in media classrooms to incorporate technology with literacy and language development programs. Schools are also leveraging funds from Head Start, Individuals with Disabilities Act, and Multnomah County Department of Human Services.
On community collaborations: Organizations such as the Children’s Institute, Metropolitan Family Services and Padres Unidos are working with the district to provide early learning opportunities and wrap around service for students and their families at elementary school sites. Earl Boyles Elementary School is one where school where this has happened most quickly. Earl Boyles has tapped the expertise of their families, the community organizations and the local and federal funding sources to put in place a comprehensive pre-K program (that includes weekly home visits), family programs for parenting, literacy, financial training, all housed in a brand new wing of the school, the “community hub.”
All of this work has been designed to be implemented with current staff and just few additional resources. This is really an effort to capitalize on the expertise that all stakeholders can bring to the effort and put in place the kinds of practices and partnerships that will provide a top-notch learning environment for all students and their families.
Kari Nelsestuen is an independent consultant with experience helping groups apply the tools of improvement science. Kari lives with her husband and their two school-aged children in Portland, Oregon
Have you experienced solutionitis? It is a common problem in education, defined by moving quickly to a solution before truly understanding the problem.
See a problem? Throw a solution at it. If the problem still exists after a year, toss in a different solution. While solutionitis might come from the best of intentions, it usually doesn’t work. Instead, it uses valuable resources and leaves educators, students, and families frustrated.
Luckily, there’s a cure for solutionitis. Improvement science is a process of disciplined inquiry to identify, adapt, and scale-up promising solutions. Originally developed for health care settings, improvement science has become a trusted way to approach complex educational problems. Thanks to the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, this approach is seeing success in education settings across the country.
In Oregon, Chalkboard Project supports the use of improvement science in a growing number of districts. With grant support from the School District Collaboration Fund, teams are designing ways to improve teacher effectiveness in key areas: educator evaluation, professional learning, career pathways, and compensation. Teams engage in answering six improvement science questions:
- What is the problem we are trying to solve?
- Why does this problem exist?
- What are we trying to accomplish?
- What do we already know?
- What are we going to do?
- How will we know how we’re doing?
While answering these questions, Newberg School District, for example, is creating a plan to improve their teacher evaluation system and has worked through the first three questions. Now, after setting an ambitious but realistic goal, they are immersed in research to answer Question 4. A design team in North Clackamas School District is using improvement science to improve professional development in their district. Working through the list of questions, they are currently tackling Question 6: Planning measures that allow them to make regular, data-based improvements along the way, rather than the solutionitis approach of waiting to examine progress at the end.
Other districts—from southern Oregon’s Three Rivers School District to Colton School District in the foothills of Mount Hood—are also using improvement science and the process is moving teams forward:
“Many times in education we just start with the solution—we pick one without really knowing the context of the need. When we identify a problem of practice, when we take the time to analyze why there is a problem in the first place, when we engage in a process where everyone feels like their voice has been heard, where everyone is engaged, this is where true change can take place.” — Design Team Member
“We had time to identify the problems…and everyone had a voice. Once we start to scientifically improve the issues, teachers will begin to see that we are not just another group that just meets but that we are actually producing true positive change in the district.” — Design Team Member
These early examples suggest that, at last, we may have found a cure for solutionitis.
For more information:
 Solutionitis and other concepts in this article are described in Bryk, A., Gomez, L., Grunow, A., LeMahieu, P. (2015). Learning to Improve: How America’s Schools Can Get Better at Getting Better. Harvard Education Press. Cambridge, MA.
Chalkboard Project staff celebrated the holidays last Thursday, December 17. The staff enjoyed brunch, plus a “My Favorite Things” gift swap. The gift swap, using a gift-exchange style made popular by Oprah Winfrey, was a creative way for the staff to learn more about each other while enjoying the gifts of the season.
Later, several staff members donned hairnets and aprons for two work assignments at the Oregon Food Bank. The first shift culled through donations from grocery stores statewide to remove spoilage, and return the quality items for food bank distribution within 48 hours.
Then, the crew re-assembled to organize hundreds of pastry and baked goods/breads for charitable distribution. The Oregon Food Bank has nearly 970 agencies distributing food—nearly one in five area households benefit from their services to eliminate hunger.
The staff had an amazing time volunteering and learning more about the amazing efforts of the Oregon Food Bank.
“Happy Holidays!” from Chalkboard Project and Foundations For A Better Oregon.
The Chalkboard staff pause to take a photo after their Oregon Food Bank shifts.
Chalkboard Project stands ready to support our state education leaders as they prepare to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)—legislation that reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Passage of the new law presents opportunities and challenges for our state as accountability for equitable educational opportunities shifts from the federal government to states.
We urge the state to move forward with a thoughtful process, and a sound system of implementation and accountability, building on what we’ve already accomplished. The new law requires states to use data and evidence to drive change and ensure our limited resources are used wisely. We must protect what is working and avoid discarding promising practices with proven results. From efforts on the ground to implementation of our statewide teacher evaluation system, we have made important strides to strengthen accountability and teacher effectiveness, and accelerate student achievement. As we continue to improve our education systems, we must continue to harness the talent and expertise of our teachers to design a framework that holds our education system accountable while setting high expectations for teachers, principals, and students.
Equitable educational opportunities have always been at the core of ESEA and remain a high priority under the new law. For many, the federal law is a civil rights bill designed to ensure all children in our nation have access to high-quality education. The bill continues to hold states accountable for its most vulnerable students and requires states to intervene in chronically low-performing schools and schools that are not closing the achievement gap. As the federal government relinquishes some of its oversight in this area, it is imperative we put in place effective state policies to support and enforce these requirements.
Just as the one-size-fits-all approach did not work under No Child Left Behind, we must work toward establishing accountability systems in ways that make sense in our local context. We are encouraged by Deputy Superintendent Salam Noor’s announcement that he will take the necessary time to engage all stakeholders: to recognize that varying needs across communities, schools, and districts and design sensible approaches while keeping strong accountability guiderails in place.
Reflections from a presentation on equity, diversity, and inclusion
Kris Anderson is a nonprofit consultant, educator, and the author of State of Giving as well as the recently published CLASS Project white paper.
Keynote speaker Shadiin Garcia
Shadiin Garcia recently presented at Chalkboard’s annual board-affiliate meeting. Garcia, who is the deputy director of policy and research in the Oregon Chief Education Office, has worked in education for more than 20 years. She is completing her PhD at the University of Oregon, and specializes in culturally relevant curriculum, educational equity, and systemic change. Her presentation, related via a mixture of theory and personal stories, focused on education equity and the importance of ensuring that curricula and the full education experience is inclusive, representative, and affirming to those of all backgrounds and identities.
Garcia, who is Chicana and Laguna Pueblo from New Mexico, began by introducing four principles, or truths, that should guide all educators and policymakers. The first is simple, she said: what we put in front of students matters. Curriculum choices are not neutral: they are stamped by our own experience, by the families we serve, and by the systems and canons in which we work. She made clear that there are consequences to curriculum choices. If kids can’t recognize their own experience in certain assignments, it can function as a kind of “erasure”—a cultural whitewashing. Curricular choices matter, she says, and it is our own responsibilities to educate ourselves so that we can be genuinely culturally competent and inclusive.
Garcia’s second truth is that the way we talk about students and families matter. She outlined the difference between “asset-based thinking” and “deficit-based thinking.” Deficit-based thinking is something of which we are all guilty: grouping people by their barriers and lack of resources, rather than by those assets that work in their favor. Identifying communities by their challenges creates an at-risk narrative. Instead, an asset-based approach looks at strengths, at the gifts that a community or a person has working toward their advantage. Part of asset-based thinking is using positive terminology, she said: instead of “subgroup,” use “group”, and instead of “ELL”, try using “emerging bilingual student” (bilingualism is a huge asset and should be celebrated, she rightly added). Instead of the vocabulary of challenge, Garcia explained, we can use the lexicon of progress and optimism, speaking about a person’s leadership potential, and describing students as “promising,” “scholars,” “learners,” “graduates.” This isn’t just a matter of terminological nicety, Garcia noted. Rather, it is an essential part of education equity: every student should be regarded as having the same promise.
Garcia’s third truth is that listening for other paradigms and ways of knowing matters. She related a story of two of her sons in the schoolyard. The younger son suffered a cut while playing, and a teacher hurried over to take the boy in for clean-up and a Band-Aid. Garcia’s other son, who had been commissioned by Garcia to watch over his younger brother while at school, wouldn’t leave his brother’s side despite the teacher’s assurances that tending to the child was her job. The older son responded that it was also his job, which eventually led to him getting a referral. When Garcia went in to speak to the school about it, she finally convinced the teacher that it could be both of their jobs—both the older brother and the teacher could look out for the younger boy simultaneously. Garcia cited this as one small example of a wider inflexibility within established systems to see others’ viewpoints and ways of knowing.
Being open and accepting of other traditions is particularly important in a climate when stereotypes and micro-aggressions are more the norm, Garcia said. As an example, she explained that she had been told a number of times that “I’m a credit to my race.” While those who said this thought that they were paying a compliment, in actuality they were confirming racist biases. These little “micro-aggressions” happen all the time, Garcia said, and can only be defeated by “micro-affirmations:” by intentional gestures of caring and inclusion, and “by graceful acts of listening for other ways of being.”
These three truths—1. What you put in front of students matters; 2. The way you talk about students and families matters; and 3. Listening for other paradigms and ways of knowing matters—lead to a final overarching truth: 4. Policy matters.
Policy matters because institutions need to lead the way in removing barriers, she said. Garcia observed that these three initial principles overlap precisely with the founding principles of ethnic studies, which promotes respect and understanding among all races and cultures, supports student success, and teaches critical thinking skills. Ethnic studies’ demand for inclusivity is precisely why these three truths need to drive our education policy decisions, Garcia said. It is everyone’s responsibility, she said, and called upon attendees to focus their public policy and curriculum development around asset-based thinking and openness, and to work vigilantly to ensure that all cultures have access to inclusive curricula and the means to develop their own curricula if desired. This kind of intercultural equity is urgently needed, Garcia said, citing American Indian high school and higher education graduation rates as a sobering reminder that our education system (and our society) is not yet equal and inclusive. Ultimately, she concluded, our system needs a new approach that is inclusive, positive, and attentive to others’ stories. Her remarks concluded with a call to arms: “Let’s be architects [of reform] together!”
See photos from the annual event on the Facebook photo album.
Reflections from a keynote presentation
— Kris Anderson is a nonprofit consultant, educator, and the author of State of Giving as well as the recently published CLASS Project white paper.
As someone who has worked with and admired Chalkboard Project for a long while, I was honored to participate in this year’s annual meeting. Chalkboard’s gatherings are always fascinating, with educators, funders, policymakers, union leaders, and administrators coming together to discuss education transformation in real terms. This year’s event, held on November 18, was no exception.
Keynote speaker Peter Cunningham
Keynote Peter Cunningham, executive director of Education Post and former assistant secretary for communications and outreach for the U.S. Department of Education, kicked off the event with a talk that ranged from electoral politics to funding equity to professional development. He noted that the state of education in America is much stronger than it has been, but of course still needs much improvement. Getting it right is not impossible: there are some states, like Massachusetts, that have leveled the playing field while elevating student achievement across the board. Many other states are working hard to improve, including Oregon, which has benefited from particularly innovative reforms.
Cunningham spoke of the need for leadership at all levels: teachers, administrators, unions, and parents, whom he would like to become more invested in their children’s educations. He celebrated principals in particular as important to student achievement, and paraphrased U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s declaration that there may be bad schools with good principals, but no great schools with bad principals.
Our schools are more segregated today than they were decades ago: “public schools are increasingly blacker, browner, and poorer than in the past.” Oregon, Cunningham said, has its own unique set of challenges. But he also noted that we have a lot on our side: a collectivist attitude tempered with rugged individualism; strong teachers’ unions, which make for strong partnerships; and “a real sense of mutual respect and empowerment.”
He celebrated Oregon’s successful and expanding mentorship program, which he sees as key to creating a stronger teacher corps, and credited Chalkboard Project as being a tremendous force for good in Oregon and a leader on this and many other initiatives. Oregon is lucky to have Chalkboard Project, Cunningham said: most states do not have a philanthropic community that is deeply engaged in education reform, especially at a legislative level. In the end, Cunningham said, the key challenge is for Oregon to take all of the successful initiatives that Chalkboard and others have introduced and to “go big,” rolling out these programs so that they support all of Oregon’s students, teachers, and education leaders…which includes funding them at a level that reflects their importance and impact. He thinks Chalkboard “is too humble” about its successes. Even if it’s modest with its own story, Chalkboard’s many friends in the room helped flesh out a portrait of an organization whose innovations are wide reaching and transformative.
See a photo album of the event online.
Last week, at our annual board-affiliate meeting, Chalkboard awarded its first-ever Orcilia Zuñiga Forbes Leadership in Education Advocacy Award. Orcilia was a founding board member of Foundations for a Better Oregon and a fierce champion for children and education in our state, especially for those most in need.
It was our great honor to recognize Oregon Representative Betty Komp as the first awardee. A tireless advocate for education, Representative Komp has been instrumental in passing many of our state’s policies to support educator effectiveness and lift up the profession in our state—from securing funding for new teacher and principal mentoring, to the creation of the School District Collaboration Fund, to supporting TeachOregon and Leading for Learning. Her dedication and commitment to quality teaching and learning has helped districts implement transformative change, close achievement gaps, and increase student achievement.
Betty Komp is a former teacher and principal, and served as a CLASS Project coach.
“I’ll use that old adage, ‘It takes a whole village to raise a child’, but I would say, ‘No, it takes a whole state,’” Rep. Komp said, after receiving the award.
The annual award will recognize state, education, or philanthropic leaders who have a track record of successful education advocacy or education leadership, and are champions of change.
Rep. Betty Komp receives the Orcilia Zuniga Forbes Leadership in Education Advocacy Award from Chalkboard Project President Sue Hildick, November 18, 2015 at the Chalkboard Board/Affiliate Annual Meeting, Portland, Ore.
I recently attended the Foundation for Excellence in Education’s National Summit on Education Reform. This event, like many others, stimulates new ideas and concepts that inspire and challenge me. The conference presented an array of policy ideas that are always helpful to me in my role at Chalkboard. But what really stayed with me on my plane ride home were some of the comments made by keynote speakers.
Learning may someday be as simple as swallowing a pill.
Many in the audience struggled with ideas presented by Nicholas Negroponte, founder of the MIT media lab and the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) initiative. He recommended the abolition of age segregation, testing, and real estate taxes as the funding base for education, and private schools. His description of the OLPC and introduction of technology to kids who’ve never seen it before, however, was impactful. Currently, a staggering 300-400 million children don’t have access to schools across the globe; but provide a laptop to kids who’ve never seen one before and they will not only figure out how to turn the thing on, they will manage to get to Disney Junior with remarkable speed.
When pushed to make a prediction for the future of education, Negroponte responded that one day we may gain knowledge through more than just our senses; that one day we may also access the brain through biological means. He conjectured that he wouldn’t be surprised if soon you can pop a pill and know French, for example. (My high school self would’ve loved that!)
His prediction seemingly far fetched, pushed me to think about my day-to-day work in education policy and question whether we are preparing for a vastly different future for our kids and our schools. It seems we are spending more time focused on addressing challenges presented to us by the past. This leads me to the next presenter…
Schools as they exist today are obsolete.
Dr. Sugata Mitra is professor of educational technology at the School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences at Newcastle University, UK. In 2013, he was given the $1 million TED Prize in recognition of his work focused on the use of technology in education.
Dr. Mitra described the work he was doing around self organized learning environments (SOLEs), where children work in groups, access the Internet and other software, follow up on a class activity or project, or take them where their interests lead them. He posits that a group of third graders could answer any question on their own by using the Internet. He asks, “Why shouldn’t they be able to access these tools that are an ever-increasing part of their daily lives? We wouldn’t ask anyone to tell the time without looking at a clock, would we?”
As I reflected on these questions, I couldn’t help but put on my Chalkboard “hat” and ask, “Where does that leave teachers?” If we take Dr. Mitra’s theory to the next level, we are asking teachers to take on an even more challenging role—one that takes them from the “sage on the stage” to teaching children how to interpret, decipher, and apply the universe of knowledge available to the problems before them.
This means educators will need access to supports that are innovative and nimble—that help them keep pace with the accelerating rate of change we can expect in our classrooms in the coming years. At Chalkboard, we believe building a statewide system of these supports is the single-most important thing we can do to help realize that goal and begin to prepare for a future we can only imagine.