What Ted Sizer knew

The constant evolution of school technology, documented daily on eSchool News Online, reminds us just how much the world has changed. In the education field, however, any form of change can be a scary thing.

I know this because I learned it 20 years ago in a college course I only took because friends had assured me the professor was “really good.” The subject matter was the history of American high schools, and the course was meant to give students an appreciation of the challenges teachers and administrators face.

The “really good” professor’s name was Ted Sizer.

Sizer was a rising star among educators back then, but he had not yet gained national recognition as one of the leading advocates for U.S. school reform. Yet even in those days before he became a legend, his lectures were mesmerizing.

From Day One, Sizer told us that the biggest handicap American educators face is a misguided but undying notion within most communities that each generation of children should receive the same educational experience as their parents. This mindset is the major, underlying obstacle to all school reform, because key stakeholders such as parents and politicians often are unwilling to accept even minor alterations.

As Sizer explained it, an older generation almost always views radical departure from the classroom norm as both a frivolous exercise and a back-handed slap at past methods. Adults would continue to believe that if the old teaching methods were good enough for them, then they had to be good enough for their children–even if they recognized that most everything else in life had changed.

Well, 21st-century hardware in school buildings alone is proof times have changed. Today’s interactive whiteboards and videoconferencing capabilities were unimaginable when I was in Professor Sizer’s class, but his lectures are even more relevant in the face of such progress. Making the best use of new tools requires more than just innovative teachers. It requires brave administrators willing to give teachers the freedom to try new instructional methods that might seem radical to an older set of stakeholders.

For six years, eSchool News has reported on new technologies that have value for schools. But covering the ed-tech landscape and cultivating an environment in which educators themselves actually take the next step are two very different things. We can tell you what’s out there, and we can tell you what others are doing with it, but only you can put it in students’ hands–and thereby change the world. As you challenge yourselves to embrace the future, eSN Online is doing the same. That’s why we spent months developing a new portion of our web site that allows educators to share ideas on everything from funding to installing to teaching technology. Our “eSN Ed-Tech Insider” made its debut in October, bringing a passionate group of ed-tech experts to eSN Online. These include teachers, administrators, software developers, vendors, technology directors, and even journalists. Some eSN Ed-Tech Insiders have made a career of teaching educators about technology, and all are eager to interact with our readers.

eSN Ed-Tech Insider is a joint venture between eSchool News and Clarity Innovations Inc. of Portland, Ore. Clarity, a leader in showing schools and teachers how to use weblogs in classrooms, helped us build a vibrant community you can’t find anywhere else. So, on behalf of eSchool News, Clarity Inovations, and a team of expert bloggers, I invite you to join us online. This should be the best sort of learning experience for everyone.

You can visit eSN Ed-Tech Insider at:

New PDRC, ERC, and more

In addition to the eSN Ed-Tech Insider, check out the new Atomic Learning entry in our Professional Development Resource Center (PDRC). Atomic Learning supports educators by providing user-friendly tutorials for many software applications used in schools. Atomic Learning’s 24-7 online instruction is available for more than 70 software packages, including the full Microsoft Office suite, Adobe Photoshop, Apple’s iMove, Macromedia Dreamweaver, Microsoft’s MovieMaker 2, and much more. Here’s a reliable place to turn whenever you find yourself staring at a monitor and wondering, “How do I do that?” Visit the Atomic Learning PDRC here:

eSN Online also has added another hot topic to our Educator’s Resource Center (ERC). It’s titled “Controlling Technology Costs.” We have put together a wealth of content on this subject, thanks to financial support from JDL Technologies. You can visit the ERC now at:

Finally, in November we’ll have our recap of the National School Boards Association’s T+L2 conference in our “eSN Conference Information Center,” as well as complete coverage of how the presidential election results will affect the future of ed-tech funding. It’s a lot of great content you won’t want to miss.

Want to share a great resource? Let us know at submissions@eschoolmedia.com.