An educator shares her biggest challenges and how the right piece of technology can bring a school together
With the rapid rise of online technology resources, coupled with the ever-expanding list of the latest teaching strategies, an educator might feel like they are constantly walking through a thick, dark jungle to carve a clear path to harness the power of the hardware, software, and new theories to effectively improve teaching and learning.
But before we can optimize the student’s learning potential we have to face facts. There are a host (well, at least 12) challenges that I’ve identified that educators must first address before classroom models are flexible enough to expand both within and beyond classroom walls, and our solution for helping to solve them.
So my list looks like this:
- The Incredible Shrinking Budget. Inadequate funding forces schools to increase class sizes, cut curriculum, eliminate teaching positions, and shift costs for paper, printing and other supplies to parents—leading to the unfortunate education mantra of ‘doing more with less.’
- An F for Feedback. Letter grades do not provide students with enough feedback or motivation to improve, especially in the project-based learning world and other student-centered teaching technique. So the question is how do we make the paradigm shift to more meaningful ‘evaluations complete with dialogue’ to support standards-based learning?
- Blurred Vision. Districts failing to make major infrastructure improvements in their schools often don’t’ have a clear, consistent visions for success nor the capacity that’s critical for the instructional implementation of technology.(Next page: teacher retention, parent-teacher communication and other top challenges)
- 4. No Links. Creating a strong link between curriculum, standards and assessment in a digital framework as well as connecting the learning to students’ personal interests and goals is balancing act. Without effective teacher professional development and systems and processes for measuring what works, curriculum is missing the mark and falling short.
- 5. Retention. Retention. Finding teachers is difficult, and keeping them is nearly impossible. Nearly 15% leave the profession in less than 12 months, 50% close their ‘books’ in the first five years. Why? Many cite lack of resources as one of the biggest contributing factors.
- 6. Teacher (In)Effectiveness. So much time is spent on administrative tasks (lesson planning, grading, copying and distributing papers) that too little time left to actually focus on what they want to do—teach.
- 7. Open Up. When the lines of communications remain a true dialogue between parents and schools—not surprisingly student achievement increases, students behave better and graduation rates increase. The challenge? Remain open for business.
- 8. Access This. Without access to student information such as upcoming assignments, progress reports, school events and class activities, parents become disconnected from their child’s school and learning life before you can say, “student achievement suffers.”
- 9. #Blendedflippedpersonalized. Without a clear understanding of learning outcomes and the shift to technology-driven pedagogy, parents will question the value of digital curriculum, digital content and the various assigned activities that involve project-based learning, peer-to-peer learning and other student-driven and student-centered teaching techniques.
- 10. Not Meeting Up. By high school, only four in 10 students qualify as engaged, most commonly citing a disconnect between the way their teacher teach and how they actually learn in today’s wired society. Schools must strive to engage the disengaged.
- 11. No Joke: Read No. 10 Again. High school dropouts are 72 percent more likely to be unemployed than high school graduates, and about three times as likely as those who have finished high school to slip into poverty from one year to the next.
- 12. One Size Does Not Fit All. This is not your father’s classroom. Students today come to school with a range of previous knowledge and experience. With the pressures of standardized testing, and minimal time for teachers to personalize learning experiences, students are left with choice or voice, and can quickly become disengaged. (See No. 10 again!)
So, do you face one or more of these dirty dozen issues? Believe it or not, three little letters L.M.S. can be the big answer to solving your problems. We use itslearning for our personalized learning solution because it’s unique design has not only been built for the way education is delivered today and all its ‘grimy’ issues, but for the absolute evolution yet to come.
For your needs, consider that the right LMS is an integral part to any learning initiative, so you will want to ensure that it is aligned with your goals. Does it offer a single platform for educators, students and parents? This addresses many of the challenges I outlined from increasing teacher effectiveness to enabling greater parent involvement.
And finally, does the system tie together the instructional needs to the teacher including curriculum development and planning using textbooks or Open Education Resources or teacher-created lessons; delivery of courses and instructional activities be that flipped, blended or personalized; student assessment; and data analysis, including standards mastery reporting. The right system is out there to meet your needs just be sure to consider these important issues to get the most from your LMS.
Martha Barwick is Coordinator of Instructional Technology at Harford (MD) County Public Schools.
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