It’s been decades since teachers, administrators, policymakers and business leaders first predicted that information technology would revolutionize teaching. Every few years since then, experts have come together to predict that computers were about to change how we teach. Until now, the experts have been wrong.
A Tipping Point in Technology
LEAD believes America is reaching a tipping point for digital textbooks, online lessons, learning games, collaborative platforms and other digital tools.
Schools are using a growing range of devices – from laptops, tablets and smart phones to classroom “orchestration devices,” like smart boards and classroom response systems. Meanwhile, public-private partnerships are helping schools provide more students in America with broadband service.
Education content – online lessons, learning games, collaborative tools – are growing more intuitive, more personalized and more affordable. With real-time assessments, we can help teachers identify how each child learns, where he needs improvement and which learning strategies suit him best. This creates enormous opportunities to personalize each student’s coursework, to match her learning style, fill skills gaps and even help her enjoy school more.
School administrators, broadband providers, software developers, architects and teachers are working together to make the most of new investments in online tools, and a growing number of schools are demonstrating what this kind of integration can do. To create optimal learning environments, these schools are testing tiered teaching teams (with master teachers focusing on one-to-one tutoring while junior teachers help students with online work). They’re expanding classrooms, class duration and class size in order to help break the students into smaller teams and allow students to learn skills through multiple learning modules in a single period. These schools are also expanding students' use of new technologies in how they create and present school reports.
Larger Forces Driving Innovation In Our Schools
As schools integrate to emerging learning technologies, they are also responding to three forces: new standards, new teachers, and smaller budgets.
Nearly every State has committed to adopting a new “Common Core” of education standards, designed to help schools prepare American children for our increasingly global, and competitive, economy. Online tools have immediate applications for Common Core implementation – including how student results are collected and measured. This makes it easier for administrators to consider investments they might otherwise have delayed.
Administrators are also preparing for a wave of new teachers – the largest turnover the profession has seen in decades. Over the next 10 years, the teaching industry is expected to see a 10% annual turnover rate with almost 4 million teachers leaving the profession. By 2021, 63% of the workforce is expected to be different from today's.
Finally, recent State budget cuts are forcing administrators to cut costs wherever they can. Last year, 37 out of 50 States reduced the amount of money they spend on education. Many of these States have been cutting support for several years. Online lessons, tiered teacher models, better assessment of student readiness and personalized lessons have the potential to improve student learning, but they also have the potential reduce schools’ operating costs.
The LEAD Process
Of course, the fact that education tools are becoming more intuitive, more integrated and more affordable, does not mean integrating them into our schools will be easy. Innovators must deal with a variety of stakeholders, vast differences in local funding and a highly fragmented market, among other challenges.
LEAD spent nearly one year interviewing administrators, entrepreneurs, teachers, telecom executives, parents and policymakers. This website includes profiles of state of the art programs and briefings on barriers holding innovation back. The LEAD Commission has outlined and promoted potential “accelerants” for helping teachers and students take advantage of technology in education through its blueprint, which was released in June 2013.