Student performance continues to propel the conversation on what Americans think is wrong with our nation’s public education system. As teachers, it’s our responsibility to evaluate current educational practices and to determine how to enhance student achievement while better preparing students for college, careers and citizenship.
I recently attended the NBC News Education Nation Summit in New York City as an America Achieves Fellow. This four-day summit gathered outstanding educators and policy makers from across the country to discuss the state of education in America.
While there were a variety of opinions about how best to address and improve upon the perceived failings of the current system, I grew hopeful for positive change due to the emphasis on Common Core State Standards and technology as assets to individualization and innovation in the classroom.
Currently adopted by 45 U.S. states and three territories, the standards provide a consistent and clear understanding of what students are expected to learn so that teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. It is quickly becoming the focal point for changing how we think about teaching and learning.
As we strive to bring a world-class education to America’s students, the use of technology is an important step toward improving teaching strategies that result in enhancing students’ performance. While I do not believe that teaching should mimic technology, I do believe that technology is a critical educational asset that offers teachers more ways to engage learners across performance levels. Technology is already showing us that learning can be limitless and that it can be customized to meet the needs of individual learners.
One of the first tangible tools toward implementing Common Core State Standards is the launch of the America Achieves Common Core website. This tool demonstrates for the more than 13,000 educators in Hawaii how to make the shift to these new college- and career-ready standards in math and literacy. The website was created by teachers for teachers and includes editable lesson plans, teacher lesson videos, quality instructional resources and other guidance.
Another example of technology as a catalyst for groundbreaking and collaborative thinking was the introduction at Education Nation of a new technology called Pathbrite.com. This is a digital system that allows students to create personal digital portfolios that highlight their creativity, engagement in the community, and other growth areas for which there are no tests.
This technology tool resonated strongly with me. As a preschool teacher of children with developmental delays, I do not administer achievement tests regularly as research has shown that these tests are not valid for these young learners. What I document to show growth is how young children are learning to express their ideas through drawing before they can write, how they express themselves with oral language, how they engage with their peers, and how they express themselves as scientists and artists. Incorporating new technology like Pathbrite in my classroom would enable me to even better pinpoint specific weak areas of learning for each individual learner by using these individual portfolios.
To move our schools and students to global excellence, teachers must be encouraged to adopt the Common Core State Standards, innovate their teaching within the classroom, and possess the technology tools they need to best meet each student’s individual learning needs. The only way to evolve our educational platform is to invest in both our teachers and the technology tools that will support them.
Returning from Education Nation, I have a renewed sense of how the knowledge I gained can help guide further conversations about teaching and learning. And, how as a community, we can leverage policy, practice and leadership to build high-quality educational systems in which students can thrive.