Archive for the ‘Video taping’ Category

At a recent education award ceremony, a prominent education leader being recognized began the acceptance speech by saying “I am not a techie”. At first I was a little upset, because these awards were for educators, and not technology educators. I had to catch myself and hold back my criticism, because I often use that same phrase with educators, but for a different reason. It is actually a symptom of a decades old and continuing discussion in education.

We are now living in a world that is technology-driven, requiring a minimum amount of digital literacy from anyone who hopes to function, if not thrive, in that world. Many educators do not feel that they are sufficiently versed in technology to adequately prepare their students for the world in which the students will live. Much of this is a result of the way technology has evolved in education. Technology was not integrated as a tool for learning from the start, but rather it was almost a mystical, or a magical thing that had its own department and staff, as well as specially trained teachers to work with it. In the beginning it was an add-on. It also started in the wealthier schools. Colleges were not adequately preparing pre-service teachers in the use or integration of tech. Some colleges struggle with the very same issues today. Technology and education were like trains on two spate lines of track.

Some tech blended in immediately with little resistance. When the first electronic four-function pocket calculators came out in the seventies, teachers could not buy them fast enough at a time when report card grades were due. The cost back then was about $100. The other quickly accepted tech was the word processor. This was probably because it closely resembled an accepted form of tech, the typewriter. The methodology in using a word processor is very different from a typewriter. I am willing to bet however, that there are still teachers requiring kids to do a rough draft, final draft, on paper in pen, and then to type that into the word processor.

Being an educator today requires that we be digitally literate. Beyond that we also need to have a basic understanding of these technology tools for learning. The ultimate plan for education is to have kids learn to intelligently communicate, critically think, collaborate and create in their world. The very tools that they will use today to do all of this are technological. The tools that they will use in their future will be even more advanced technology. Educators have a responsibility to deliver a relevant education to their students. That requires digital literacy.

I often had to debate some of my higher ed colleagues as I incorporated more and more technology into my education courses. Colleagues telling me that I was not teaching a technology course, but rather an education course often challenged me. I would insist that I was teaching an education course, and using technology tools for learning that the future educators in my class need to understand. However, in the minds of my colleagues technology and education were two separate entities.

If we are to accomplish the goal of educating our educators about digital literacy, we need to stop apologizing out of embarrassment for shortcomings. For an educator to say, “I am not a techie” and consider that ample reason not to use digital devices, or not to permit Internet access in a 21st Century classroom is depriving students of skills and sources that they will need for better understanding and a better ability to compete in their world.

That Award winning educator found herself in an auditorium of connected educators and made claim to not being a techie. She wrongly assumed that connected educators in that room were all techies. In fact although some were techies and some were geeks, most were just digitally literate educators; a goal that should be held by every educator who wants to be relevant and effective.

When I tell people I am not a techie, it is not because I fail to use technology as a tool. It is because at my age I learn about whatever it is that I need to know to stay relevant. I emphasize that digital literacy is not a generational thing; it is a learning thing. I am a life long learner and that requires digital literacy to maintain. Technology and education have merged in many ways. We cannot separate them out any longer. Educators should not need a degree in education and then another in Educational Technology in order to be a digitally literate educator.

Beyond the mindset we need to change the approach to professional development. We do not need to be teaching the bells and whistles of a technology application. We need to ask teachers what they are doing first, and then see if the introduction of an application will benefit that goal. Chances are good that it will. We need the Technology staff to understand pedagogy and methodology in order to incorporate technology into education more seamlessly.

We will not be effective as a profession of techies and teachers. We will succeed if we are all digitally literate educators. An illiterate educator is an ineffective educator. To better educate our children we need to better educate their educators.

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“Preparing kids for the Real World” is a phrase that many educators and schools use without regard for the consequence of what they selectively choose as reality for their students. Both educators and institutions in many cases are still choosing for students by educating them traditionally, or more progressively using technology tools for learning. This probably begins with educators’ misconception of the real world.

We cannot prepare kids for the Real World when we still have a 20th century view of it. We are over a dozen years into the 21st Century and some kids in the system have another dozen years before they need their real world experience to hit the streets. That would take us a quarter through the 21st century. How time flies.

Yes, one can be a good teacher without technology. I will not dispute that claim. I believe it to be true. That however deals with a method of teaching, and not what needs to be taught. It is the how versus the what. If one buys into the preparation for the real world argument, teachers methodology choice should take a back seat to  how kids learn and what kids need to learn.

First, I must say that the real world for kids does not begin when they graduate. They are living in the real world now. Their world is quite different from ours. Their world is even more technology driven than ours. Schools cannot be protective cocoons holding our youth until they are matured and educated well enough to spread out their wings and take on the reality of the world. It makes a nice picture, but the subject today is reality.

I remember how Math teachers at one time used the slide rule for calculations. It was even allowed to be used in class, and sometimes on tests. Calculators had a tougher battle getting into classes. Even today many teachers ban them from tests. I wonder if the math jobs in the real world ban the use of calculators? I wonder if students familiar with computer programs dealing with advanced math are disadvantaged in the job market?

When private companies tell us that employees today should be versed in collaboration and be willing to work in groups to fit into the models and structures of modern workspaces in today’s businesses, does that ring true with our students’ education experience? Do educators and schools understand the needs of business in order to prepare students for it in the real world?

When employers are seeking candidates for writing positions in business, will they interview candidates with pen and paper writing samples, or will they ask to see finished writing projects with style and flair produced for print quality? Mechanics having the ability to rebuild a ’58 Chevy may be in high demand in Cuba, but, in the real world that we must prepare our kids for, this is less desirable than a mechanic who knows how to address the automotive computer world of repairs.

We live in a technology-driven society. Unless we choose to live in a commune in the woods or the desert, that will not change. Technology has permeated every part of our lives. It takes one lightning strike on your house to learn that lesson. In addition to all phones and electronics, even your home heating unit and ice maker will have computer chips that will need to be replaced.

Education as much as any other industry has been deluged with technological tools for learning, communication, collaboration, and creation. These tools represent and are used with everything that we teach and hold dear. Some are good and some are not. Our choice as educators should be between the good and the bad, the useful and the frivolous, the productive and the time wasters. As educators we no longer get to choose whether or not we use technology. If our goals, as well as we as educators, are to be believed, and we truly are preparing our students for the real world, we must concede that that world abounds with technology and there are no other choices. We would be more than remiss in our obligation as educators if we chose not to employ technology where it fits. There are times when it may not.

Now the questions arise, are our teachers trained and supported in technology use. Are the buildings adequately tooled for technology? Are administrators devising new, and updating antiquated policies to meet the challenges of teaching with technology? If we are not doing these things, are we then lying to our children when we tell them that we are preparing them for their future?

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I was fortunate and honored to be asked to speak at a recent conference for The Software Information Industry Association (SIIA). They are all wonderful people in a group that represents a major portion of education software developers and manufacturers. I had some great discussions with some very smart and driven education-minded, business people. As I stated in my last post, many of these people have come from the ranks of educators. My big take away from this conference however, was not about all of the great new products coming from the companies that these folks represented. What was most evident to me was the driving force behind all of the great stuff being developed: DATA. In this world of monetizing education data is King. It is what business understands.

Knowing that makes it easy to understand the point of view of many of our industrial, or business-background, educational leaders, who are leading the way in education today. They are data-driven leaders. They believe that we need Data to analyze, and adjust, so that we may move forward. Of course, if we analyze, adjust and move forward according to the Data, and change doesn’t happen, there must be a reason that requires us to think through that reason in order to adjust. If there is no improvement, someone must be held accountable, because the data is always reliable. All things considered the fingers of the data-readers begin to point to the variable in the equation; the teacher. Of course Business oriented leaders will additionally include the Bane of any business leader’s existence; the unions.

Now before everyone gets their backs up, let us consider another possibility. Let us consider that maybe the merging of the mantras of education and business are not working out together. Maybe “Content is King” merged with “Data is King” does not add up to a learned individual. Maybe the focus on content, so that education can be easily assessed by Data is really the wrong thing that we should be analyzing. Maybe, how we teach, is a much more important element in learning than what we teach. Maybe the data is totally correct about what it is assessing, but what it is assessing is not what we should be looking at.

I always go back to the way technology is assessed by some schools. They test kids out, interject some tech stuff, test the kids again, and check the results. If the results are poor, or if there is no difference, then it is deduced that the tech has failed to make a difference. Hence, Tech does not work.  The questions not asked are important. Was the teacher properly prepared to use the tech? How were the students trained to use the tech? Was the culture of the class supportive of the tech? Was the tech that was selected the best tech to achieve the teachers goals? Was the teacher involved with creating the lessons using the tech, or was it packaged lessons? How much support did the teacher receive during the project? Of course we could go on with even more questions. The point is that the right questions and conclusions need to be applied to the data.

I met many, very smart, and successful people at that conference. I did not ask one of them what the data said about their personal competence as a learned individual. I judged that for myself by their accomplishments, communication skills, social skills, and even appearance. Not one person had a name tag with their test scores evident as a means of introduction. I only hope they were equally impressed with the opinions I expressed as an educator who is more than somewhat opinionated. I am sure my Hawaiian shirts gave them some mixed ideas.

As teachers, we all have our specific content to teach. That has been our goal since public education was introduced. It is what we do with that content that makes the difference. We can put it out there and have the kids commit it to memory. We can put it in video form and have the kids commit it to memory. We can put it in a PDF form and have kids commit it to memory. That would all make it easy to do a data analysis. We could probably require specific things be covered by all teachers, so our kids would all get equal educations in every state in the country. We could even develop a single test everyone could take at the same time. That would help standardize education. Then we could compare apples to apples as well as oranges to oranges around the country.

Another way to look at it would be to use that content to teach skills of collaboration, communication, and the ultimate “ation” of all; creation. Memorization of content (although difficult for many) is the thinking skill requiring the least amount of thinking. As a skill it is needed, but not coveted. Having the facts is helpful, knowing what to do with them, and adapting them to any situation is priceless. If teachers focused on teaching learning instead of the more easily assessed content memorization, we would have a population of critical thinking, creative, innovators who continuously learn even after leaving school.

At the final presentation that I attended at this wonderful conference, I gained a little more insight into the direction of Tech in education today. This was a panel of some very impressive, forward thinking presidents of tech in education companies. My first insight was that there are a great many companies developing gaming for education. My second insight into the Edtech direction was not as hopeful, at least to me. The two phrases that really caught my attention  were “classroom instruction” and “BYOD (bring your own device)”. Both of these told me that the tech companies, like many people in general, believe that kids need to go to a specific place to learn, the classroom. If we are to be successful as educators, than how we teach kids better involve a way for them to learn outside the classroom. No student should be limited by the content knowledge of their teacher. If I taught all my students everything I know, it wouldn’t be enough for them to live in their world. What we are teaching will be irrelevant. How we teach kids to learn will serve them for a lifetime.

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In order for educators to teach kids, they need something to teach. Exactly what it is that educators should teach has often been discussed and continues to be the focus of ongoing discussions for over many generations. The delivery of that content, in regard to what to teach, has never been of great concern, because the bulk of it came in the form of text, delivered in a book called the textbook. In the 50’s the education pioneers introduced film strips, 16mm films, and recordings to supplement the textbooks. The 60’s brought the video tape and the overhead projector. With the turn of the century came the disc technology, as well as a wider use of the internet. Today of course we use interactive white boards and document cameras. All of the new methods of content delivery however are, for the most part, just add-ons to the backbone of any curriculum, the textbook. Of course the publishing of textbooks became a multi-million, or billion dollar industry. The importance of Textbooks was reflected in school districts with their strictly adhered to textbook adoption policies. Textbooks are a big deal. It is a common experience of all educators and all parents. The textbook, along with the apple on the teacher’s desk, is an iconic symbol of education in America.

A decade into the new century we have a new way to deliver content. The internet not only delivers text, but allows it to be manipulated, transformed, evaluated, analyzed, merged with video and audio, created, and published.  This goes way beyond that which could be accomplished by the printed textbook. It offers educators the potential for not only presenting content to a student, but allowing the student to actually interact with that content to demonstrate more than understanding, with the potential of actual creation of the student’s own content, as well as publishing it out to others for authentic feedback. Teaching the content is the process, getting students to use the content and independently obtaining, and continuing to evaluate and use more content should be the goal.

There are now a number of ways educators have to deal with content. On opposite ends of this list of learning tools are two extremes. The textbook, as we know it over the decades at one end, and Open Source Resources of the internet on the other end. As an educator I have never liked being shackled to a single, stagnant textbook. I am personally comfortable guiding students through Open Source learning. This however, is not the comfort zone of most educators. Comfort zones are the biggest impediment to education reform. I do realize that any effective use of the internet as an open source resource for educators to use for students would require a massive undertaking of professional development for millions of educators nationwide. I would imagine that the billion-dollar textbook publishing industry would have some say in this discussion as well, so the move in that direction would be slow in coming. I believe the challenge is to create the best solution in a mechanism that is recognizable as a textbook, but enables the functions of the internet to incorporate many more tools for learning.

Educators are now beginning to establish a voice through social media. Opinions expressed by educators through blogs and social media are now beginning to gain recognition in the national discussion of what is education to be. I think that is one of the main reasons that Discovery Education used some of the leading connected educators from social media as a focus group, or think tank, to discuss what is “Beyond the Textbook”? Discovery Education was looking to gain insights to their own attempt to devise or improve such a much-needed product. Of course another reason is to have the very same people create a buzz about whatever comes from this forum. Cynics would say that we were being used and manipulated by a corporation. I would like to think that we actually have gotten what we have been asking for, for decades; an educator’s voice in what education needs.

After a long day of discussion between about 16 invited educators and the same number of Discovery Education staff, we came up with several concepts. Most of what we suggested already exists in some form today. They are tools of the internet that could be incorporated into a mechanism for learning, assessing, and creating content. Here is a list of some of the suggestions of the components that the group valued and thought should exist in what should exist as we go beyond the textbook:

  • The mechanism will exist on the internet allowing 24/7 access with computer or mobile access.
  • Many forms of content may be included: text, videos, audio, animation, graphs, and diagrams
  • The ability for flexible content will be provided.
  • The teacher will be able to add or subtract material to meet the needs of the students allowing for differentiation.
  • Content will have highlighting and note-taking capability
  • Content will be linked to dictionary and encyclopedia for easy reference.
  • Content will have language translation capability.
  • Content will be linked to other supplemental material for further exploration.
  • Formative assessment will be built into lessons to assess understanding before moving on.
  • There will be a social media component for collaboration and feedback.
  • Students will be able to create content within the mechanism.
  • Student created material will be archived and shared
  • Student created material will be placed in an ePortfolio within the mechanism.

These were some of the highlights of what came from the assembled group. The group had elementary, secondary, and higher Ed representation. Most members were very active participants in social media and education Blogs. I cannot adequately express the admiration that I have for each of the people in this group, most of whom I have met before and all of whom I follow on Twitter. These are people I often recommend following on Twitter. I have also now added to my Twitter list many Discovery Education employees who are working toward implementing our suggestions in some form into their existing and ever-evolving product, techbook. I should note that this entire project was led by Steve Dembo of Discovery Education. It is my hope that other industry leaders will begin to go to the educator’s voice on social media for input and transparency in their development of new products.

Members of The Beyond The Textbook Forum included: @rmbyrne, @courosa, @NMHS_principal, @bethstill, @teach42, @dwarlick, @dlaufenberg, @mbteach, @audreywatters, @shareski, @sciencegoddess, @wfryer, @imcguy, @djakes, @jonbecker, @principalspage, @joycevalenza, @lrougeux, @halldavidson, and of course @tomwhitby

My apologies to anyone that I may have left out.

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Yesterday, I participated in a wonderful public discussion on Education. The best part about this discussion was that it was with predominantly real educators, people who actually teach, volunteering their time and expertise on the subject of education. They discussed real issues of education and the real impediments to reform from a real educator’s point of view. There were representatives of: teachers, administrators, IT people, school board members, and parents. Dell sponsored the event, so they had three members on the panel, but they were all personnel who worked with teachers in schools for technology solutions in education. Dell never once pitched their product. The only obvious missing representation was that of the student. This point was addressed late in the discussion. The entire five-hour discussion was Live Streamed in real-time and there was a constant flow of back channel tweets during the entire presentation. Back Channeling is a stream of comments on the discussion from observers. Twitter is most often the source of back channels. There was also a chat screen on the Live Stream site. This was a very transparent discussion, which was video-taped and posted online for all to see.

We should note that more and more companies are attempting to enter the social media arena with educators by providing content and promoting conferences, discussions, and webinars for both online and face to face presentation. The best support of course is when the companies provide content, or experts on a topic without pitching products. Some educators are turned off to this. Many view it as some sort of manipulation. Personally, I have found vendors to be a great source of Education information. They are experts on whatever their product was developed to address. More often than not, their representatives are well versed and highly educated. Many product people come from the ranks of educators. When it comes to teachers, many are trained, but few are chosen. Many choose to enter the world of Educational Technology.  On this subject I must admit a bias. My wife, a former teacher, has been in the Educational Technology business for 25+ years in both hardware and software. She is more aware of the educational needs of Special Needs students than many Special Ed teachers. It is her job to be knowledgeable, aware, and relevant in that area. This holds true for many industry professionals. They are a great source for educators.

Dell spearheaded this project. They contacted many outspoken educators from the social media ranks of education circles in the New York, and New Jersey area. They approached Scholastic for a location to hold and videotape the five-hour discussion and that is the lead up to yesterday’s event.

This discussion was not run and dominated by businessmen and politicians. It was not a discussion pandering to a group of tax-reduction fanatics. The topics were not the topics of labor reform for the purpose of lower costs and higher profits, or reducing taxes. The trumped-up and often hyped topic of merit-pay was never mentioned. I was ready to talk about the importance of tenure and seniority, but again, it never came up. This group of educators talked about LEARNING and the impediments to it in today’s system. Imagine that Education Nation, a discussion about education that focused on LEARNING. The learning that was discussed was not only the learning on the part of students, but also that of the teachers. To be better teachers, we need to be better learners.

I will not capsulate the discussion here. My intent is to get you to view it. You need to observe the passion of the participants to get the full effect of their struggles. You need to hear first-hand what educators view as the real impediments to learning. Like any discussion there are high points and low points, but in my view the low points are not that low and the high points clearly send an important message. This is the list of participants with their Twitter names, so you may follow them for your own Professional Learning Network.

Eric Sheninger, @NMHS_Principal (Moderator)
Tom Whitby, @tomwhitby (Online Correspondent)
Paul Allison, @paulallison
Adam Bellow, @adambellow
Dr. Brian Chinni, @drbpchinni
Erik Endreses, @erikendress
Karen Blumberg, @SpecialKRB
Renny Fong, @timeoutdad
Adam Garry, @agarry22
Michele Glaze, @PMicheleGlaze
Erica Hartman, @elh
Kathy Ishizuka, @kishizuka
Kevin Jarrett, @kjarrett
Michelle Lampinen, @MichLampinen
Susan McPherson, @susanmcp1
Lisa Nielsen, @InnovativeEdu
Mary Rice-Boothe, @Edu_Traveler
Ken Royal, @kenroyal
Sarah Thomas, @teach2connect
Snow White, @snowwhiteatdell

The video is still being processed, and hopefully it will be broken down by the four major topics which were discussed. I plan to place the video and subsequent interviews on The Educator’s PLN when they are ready. Until then, the entire discussion may be found here: http://livestre.am/15Mfm. I would urge you to view the discussion and share your thoughts with others. In the discussion of education and education reform, we have too many people without portfolio influencing the outcome. If anyone knows the shortcomings of education and the solutions to fix them, it should be the educators themselves. They are the experts. Let the politicians address politics and the businessmen address business. It should, by now, be evident to all that both of those areas need a great deal of fixing-up as well as reform. They should address getting their own houses in order.

If we, as educators, truly believe that changes need to be made in education, than we should be leading the way. We need a seat at the tables that other non-educators are discussing things that we do, and things that we know best. We can’t leave the fate of education and the future of learning for our students at the mercy of people, who know very little about what needs to be known most. We need a teacher’s voice to be heard!

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I was always intrigued by the saying, “I taught him everything he knows, but not everything that I know!” I always thought that was a pretty clever saying. It was also true of educators in years gone by. They were the content experts. If you wanted knowledge, these experts had it. People paid good money to travel to the places where these content experts delivered their wares, universities, colleges and monasteries. Knowledge was a commodity and, if the expert held anything back, a student’s only recourse for more, was to search the libraries. Ah, the simplicity of the bygone days. As public education came about we had many more content experts and many more libraries. That was the model, listen to experts and read content in books housed in academic or public libraries. Since all of education was based on print media every teacher was media literate, if they could read and understand.

Media began to change first with TV, and then with computers offering other means of content delivery. Television was easily understood and adopted quickly by educators. VCR’s were more easily handled than threading those ratchety, click-clickety-sounding 16 mm projectors. Video cassettes made everything user-friendly. I always thought that Social Studies teachers were the quickest to use video to deliver content. It was suited for them. Some teachers even allowed students to create content with video. That was innovation back in the day.

What threw the monkey wrench into the sprocket works of education was the damned internet and all of the stuff that it delivers. It comes in mass quantities and things are always changing, or evolving, or, in some cases, disappearing altogether to be replaced by something else. Being a content expert is easier if the content doesn’t change. Commit to it once, and you are done. The idea that there might be constant change and additional information happening on a frequent basis changes the dynamic of the content expert’s job. If content changes faster than the expert can adapt, maybe the expert needs to change the strategy. Teach students what to look for, and what to value in content, so they can access it in whatever form it is being delivered. More importantly, allow students to use those tools of technology and information to create new content and share it with others.

In order to do this, Educators, who are still the content experts, need to be literate in the area of media. They need to be aware of the means of delivery and learning tools for creation of content for their students. Gutenberg’s printing press innovation carried education for years. However, it is now a new digital era and Gutenberg technology is beginning to fade. I am sure someone told Gutenberg that they would never read his printed text because they loved the feel and smell of hand written scrolls. Guttenberg would probably feel delighted to know that people feel that very same way about his printed text today. They don’t like digital and prefer the printed text. Not so much the younger generation living with texting on 4 inch screens, digital readers, iPad and tablets.

I recently read a post defining Information Literacy, Digital Literacy, and Digital Citizenship. Information Literacy, Digital Literacy and Digital Citizenship by Maggie Hos-McGrane.  It was also a Topic on a recent #Edchat discussion. After considering all of this, as well as a presentation that I am working on dealing with the subject, I have made some personal observations. I really believe that, as content experts, most educators are information literate. That would mean: To be information literate, a person must be able to recognize when information is needed and has the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information.

Where I begin to have my doubts however, is in my day-to-day contacts with educators throughout the year. I supervise student teachers requiring me to travel to many different schools contacting many different educators. I have not accumulated data, or even done a survey, but in my many encounters with educators they have often expressed objections to the use of technology tools for learning in education. It is not necessarily the actual use of technology that is being objected to, but rather the need for the educator to have to personally learn the technology. This may be the result of many things such as: bad professional development experience, lack of support to try new things, control issues, or simply not wanting to have to learn anything more. This is where I begin to be concerned. It is my OPINION that there are too many educators falling into this category. They have little chance to meet the next requirement of Media or Digital Literacy. Digital literacy is the ability to locate, organize, understand, evaluate and analyze information using digital technology.

How many digitally illiterate teachers in a school does it take to begin to affect the way kids are learning? This definition does not call for technology mastery, but rather simply an ability to use technology. YES, you can be a good teacher without using technology. Your students however in order to be Lifelong learners, as we all want them to be, will need a knowledge of these things to access and create content as they move further into their future. No one will be resurrecting Guttenberg technology to support outdated methods of teaching. Technology tools are no longer an option left to a teacher’s discretion. Students without a digital literacy will be handicapped as learners in their own lifetime.

How we teach often reflects how we learn. New learners have new tools. Many teachers learned and teach with old tools. They are comfortable with old tools, but a teacher’s comfort is not the goal of education. Additionally, the variety of tech tools for learning offer great opportunity for success with differentiation. Educators need to be aware. What good is it being a content expert if no one is getting the message?

Good educators need to model learning. Not being media literate in the 21st Century is a very POOR model. A teacher’s content expertise is a small rival to the internet. Teaching and guiding kids to harness that content should be the goal. Projects and speeches on paper, display boards and podiums have been replaced by many tech alternatives. Kids get it, some teachers don’t! We shouldn’t teach kids to be keepers of content, but learners of content, better yet, creators of content. It needs to be a lifelong process and tech tools are required.

If relevance requires continuous learning and it is necessary for acceptance, how do educators keep up without knowledge of media literacy? It is a professional responsibility! Media Literacy requires people enter a world that gives up a great deal of control. Many educators are not prepared for that. Comfort and control issues however, do not excuse educators from being media literate. Even one illiterate educator in a school is one too many. An even worse offense is a media illiterate administrator. We all need to model learning, especially our leadership, and moving forward, technology will be a part of that learning.

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I recently read how Bill Gates is pushing for video-taping teachers as part of an assessment process during the observation of lessons. His goal is to include videotaping of all teachers in the process of their evaluations. On the surface this sounds workable and even helpful; after all it does work for athletes. For many years now, coaches and recruiters alike all said, ”Let’s go to the Video Tape” it will show us the way.  Of course the media has changed and gone digital, so actual video tape is being replaced by other technologies, nevertheless we call it videotaping.

I have had myself videotaped at times during my career to objectively view what I looked like, and how I delivered a specific lesson to my students. It was my choice of class, my choice of lesson, and my choice to view and use. I knew what I was looking for in my lesson.  I did find it to be helpful, but it was my choice to use it as a tool, and I chose how to do it. I have used videotaping with students doing oral presentations. It enabled them to see what the audience saw as the presentation unfolded. I think under the right conditions videotaping can be a useful tool to improve presentation skills.

I have also seen videotaping used to record the lessons of perspective teachers as they applied for positions. The video tape was then played back before the hiring committee. This was far better than the alternative of having the entire hiring committee sitting in the back of the class during the lesson. All in all I am not averse to using videotaping as a tool for assessment.

One problem with videotaping all teachers for assessment is that all lessons do not lend themselves to the videotaping process. Direct instruction or a lecture may be the best forms of lessons to be videotaped. We all love TED Talks. However, there are other types of lessons that may be considered “controlled chaos” that would not play well on the big screen, but they do promote learning. The teacher is not always the focal point of the lesson. Talking is not necessarily teaching. Some lessons like simulations, group work, or projects extend several days before yielding results.  A single period videotape would not capture the results of the efforts of the teacher.

Another consideration is the introduction of the camera to the class. Once the discovery of the camera runs through the classroom, some students may exhibit different behavior. It also must be said, that not all teachers will be themselves when the camera starts rolling for the big production. With a room of thirty individuals in a classroom the introduction of a video camera must have an impact on behavior and performance of some. It has the potential of changing the dynamic of a class.

The idea to use this method for assessing all teachers may be well-intentioned, but that intention only works if it is to benefit the teacher. It is a great tool under the right conditions for specific lessons to assist the teacher in honing communication skills. However, here is the rub: some may see this video-taped observation not as an assessment tool to help the teacher, but a tool to remove the teacher from the class.  Even if that is not the case, it will be the view of many teachers. With that view, teachers will begin to give to the camera what the camera views best. Lessons will be tailored for the camera, “Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s”. Administrators will fill their video libraries with direct instruction lessons.

Teachers are not athletes who can adjust their physical skills to enhance performance. This is not to say that some things may not be improved by a videotaped intervention, as long as the teacher is open to it and the conditions are right. Their relationship with their classes is difficult to capture on a 40 minute video. How does the camera capture learning as it happens? It will certainly not be viewed on the face of the teacher.  The focus of the camera might be more telling, if it was trained on the faces of the students. Video-taping as a tool for improvement with everyone’s cooperation and willingness to use it for that goal can work. Using it as a tool to bludgeon a teacher in a year-end review should not be the intent.

My real problem in this is that it would seem that education is being guided by the vision of the likes of Bill Gates. His view of education is to have all teachers lecturing like TED-Talk lecturers in five years. I do not agree with his vision, but what do I know? I am but a lowly educator.

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