Fighting the resistance to change

Willard Daggett, president of the International Center for Leadership in Education, was one of three “Eye-Opener Keynote” speakers Thursday morning. He talked about what students in the year 2010 will need to know in terms of communication, information, and biological technologies. During his speech, Daggett discussed why he believes the United States needs to change its schools, what needs to be done to bring about this change, and how this change will come about.

“You cannot, and you will not, change schools until there is more pressure for change than resistance to change,” he told the audience. “You have to have a faculty and a community…that believe we must raise the academic standards for kids across all the board.”

One reason academic achievement isn’t increasing is that governors, teachers, and parents each do not believe they are part of the problem, Daggett said. “Until you believe that you are part of the problem, you are an enormous obstacle,” he said.

Daggett cited data indicating that 16 years ago in China, India, Eastern Europe, and the old Soviet Union, those populations could not compete against the U.S. Now, he said, those roughly 3.6 billion people are ready to compete head-to-head.

“Folks, they’re going to hand us our lunch,” he said, echoing a phrase from Crew’s keynote.

Daggett noted that China’s plans include providing a world-class education to many of the country’s students, to have world-class universities, and to have a wide math and science focus.

Chinese language instruction, he added, is becoming more and more important for U.S. students if they want to be fully prepared for the new global economy. About 1.3 million students in the U.S. are taking French, and just 24,000 students are taking Chinese, he said. The reason, he said, is simple: because the U.S. has far more French teachers than it has Chinese Mandarin instructors.

“There’s nothing wrong with French, but how do you justify not having Chinese?” Daggett asked.

Biochemistry, applied physics, statistics, and technical reading are all courses and skills that today’s youth will need to succeed in an increasingly global society, said Daggett, and many U.S. students don’t even receive these courses in high school.

Post-September 11 changes in visas have forced many non-U.S. citizens to return home after studying and obtaining degrees in science, technology, engineering, and math-related fields, Daggett said. In all of Asia last year, 60 percent of all degrees were in science and engineering, he said–while in the U.S., those same fields accounted for only 5 percent of degrees.

Despite the many warnings that the United States must keep pace with its global competitors, Daggett had words of praise for the nation’s education system.

“I think the finest education system in the world is the American public education system,” he said. “I am convinced–you know why? Because I look at it through the eyes of a parent,” said Daggett, who used his two youngest children, one born with mental handicaps and another who faces immense difficulties after a car accident, as evidence of the nation’s unique focus on educating all students–regardless of their disabilities.

Daggett emphasized that, while the U.S. needs to keep up with other countries such as China and India, it is one of the greatest countries in the world because of its compassion and understanding for each and every student.

Focusing on what needs to be done to keep the U.S. at the forefront of the global race, Daggett said educators should teach with real-world experiences and rigorous courses in mind. He added that changing the way technology is used, and how technology affects daily life, can go a long way.

Educational change in action

In a separate event at the conference, Dell, Microsoft, and Intel announced that three forward-thinking K-12 schools, chosen in a nationwide search by the companies as part of their FutureReady program, each will receive technology and services worth roughly $250,000 to make their educational technology vision a reality.

Each winner approached classroom technology and learning in an innovative way, the companies said. The FutureReady program is designed to help students reach their full potential through innovative uses of technology in the classroom.

Rocko Smucker, technology chair and first-grade teacher at Hall Fletcher Elementary School in Asheville, N.C., established a three-year technology plan to help students to be “producers, creators, and entrepreneurs.” Using interactive whiteboards and Dell notebooks, Smucker hopes to have students develop 21st-century skills by eventually producing 90 percent of their assignments digitally.

From Union Pines High School in Cameron, N.C., teacher Robin Calcutt’s plan includes helping teachers integrate technology into their curriculum. She also hopes to equip a Ninth Grade Academy with handheld computers and other devices to help reduce dropout rates, and she would like to help high school seniors create ePortfolios of their coursework that can be shared with scholarship committees, universities, and future employers.

Laurence Goldberg, director of technology at Abington Senior High School in Pennsylvania, had a vision in which students use MP3 devices to create digital portfolios. He also envisions using Dell Intelligent Classroom technology for collaboration and project-based learning, having a state-of-the-art mobile video production lab to produce multimedia reports, and using advanced software to create multi-user virtual environments for students.

In addition, Goldberg plans to implement a platform that enables teachers to manage lessons and assessments on the web, providing students with anytime, anywhere access to educational content that can be customized to their learning styles, abilities, and schedules.


Florida Educational Technology Conference

International Center for Leadership in Education

FutureReady program

Laura Ascione

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