Who better to ask about the state of education than teachers themselves? Scholastic has teamed up with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
to ask teachers for their feedback on topics such as raising student achievement, teacher evaluation, and providing resources for teachers. Primary Sources: 2012, America’s Teachers on the Teaching Profession
(PDF) compiles the results of these surveys and offers critical insight into how educators, administrators, and parents can play an important role in improving America’s school system.
The first section of the report focuses on what would boost student achievement. The most important factors identified by teachers were parent involvement and setting high expectations for students. Common standards, a clear curriculum, and strong assessments also appeared on the list. While methods for improving parent involvement could still be addressed, the new Common Core State Standards will introduce a new set of expectations for students at each grade level and will provide focused and coherent guidelines for teachers. Still, many of the teacher respondents feel unprepared for implementing the CCSS.
Twenty-seven percent of teachers surveyed feel somewhat/very unprepared to teach the standards, and only twenty-two percent say they feel very prepared. Among the tools that teachers say they need to effectively implement the CCSS are student-centered technology, formative assessments, and new curricula and learning tools aligned to the Common Core.
Check out the full report for teachers’ views on standardized tests, the growing challenges that students face in and out of the classroom, and how to retain the best teachers. How prepared do you feel for the CCSS? Do you have other ideas for how to make teachers more effective in the classroom?
Many children have little patience to satisfy a want, especially when the rewards do not seem obvious. Math homework, for example, presents a challenge that stands between young students and their preferred after-school activities. Oftentimes, when the answer does not seem immediately apparent, students would prefer to give up or rush to the wrong answer rather than work through the problem. Walter Mischel’s famous marshmallow experiment in the 1960s demonstrated that some children have a stronger ability to delay rewards. Four-year-old children were placed in a room with a marshmallow and told if they waited for the experimenter to return, they could have two marshmallows. The children who were able to wait had higher SAT scores and academic results when tested several years later.
Recently in Newsweek, Sharon Begley and Jean Chatzky discuss the conundrum of spenders versus savers, people who would prefer to buy something now versus those who would save up for something big later. Scientists are starting to identify which regions of the brain connected to “saving,” specifically the prefrontal cortex (PFC). They have even figured out how to stimulate the PFC, which improves people’s ability to delay gratification.
While activating students’ PFCs might not be the immediate solution, there appear to be other ways to promote patience in exchange for a higher payoff. One of the challenges to both parents and educators is getting children to think into the future to see the benefits of motivation and hard work. A student that I tutor dreads doing her math homework because it does not come easily to her. She would always prefer to work on Spanish, a subject in which she excels. She struggles to see that focusing on math will improve her success in the subject and make it much more enjoyable. Fortunately, research by psychologist Warren Bickel of Virginia Tech suggests that improving working memory boosts people’s ability to develop longer time horizons. And with practice, children can learn that hard work in the present will result in better outcomes in the future.
Waiting for this higher payoff requires some practice and training, but the skill of delaying gratification can be developed, a hopeful sign for math education. While tricks and shortcuts get students to the answer more quickly, they often come at the cost of understanding core concepts. If we can improve students’ working memory and time preferences, they will become more successful math learners in the long term.
Over the past few years, a new educational media platform has emerged in the form of applications, or “apps,” for smartphones, video iPods, iPads, and other tablet devices. According to “Zero to Eight: Children’s Media Use in America
,” a new study released by Common Sense Media
, 52% of all children ages 0-8 have access at home to one of the mobile devices listed above. In addition, 29% of parents have downloaded apps specifically for their children.
Schools and teachers are also incorporating these newer mobile devices into the curriculum. In fact, a recent episode of CBS’s “60 Minutes” featured an inspiring segment called Apps for Autism, which shared how special apps on iPads and other tablet computers are helping autistic children and adults make social and academic breakthroughs.
We see young children, even toddlers, reaching for their parents’ smartphones and tablets. We know that these interactive mobile devices have the power to engage young children, but how do we find educational, age-appropriate apps?
Common Sense Media, a nonprofit group based in San Francisco, reviews almost 1,500 apps designed for children and teenagers on their user-friendly website. An educational games category allows parents and teachers to browse through almost 100 apps—each containing a description, overall rating, and age level. Viewers can also sort apps by theme and age, which ranges from 2 to 17. The website provides the same type of reviews for other media sources, including television shows, computer games, websites, and more.
A few weeks ago, the Obama administration launched Digital Promise, a nonprofit initiative that intends to transform learning and teaching by advancing classroom technologies. According to a September 16, 2011 White House press release, a coalition of leading educators, researchers, technology firms, and entrepreneurs will collaborate at Digital Promise to harness the power of learning technology and “bring all of America’s schools into the 21st century.”
According to the White House press release, Digital Promise intends to tackle three significant challenges in order to advance learning technologies:
- Identifying breakthrough technologies
- Learning faster what’s working and what’s not
- Transforming the market for learning technologies
The Digital Promise website encourages “us”— educators, innovators, researchers, and citizens—to “join the discussion” by sharing our experiences with technology in the classroom and by identifying the challenges we face which learning technologies could potentially solve.
Visit Digital Promise to learn more about the initiative, “join the discussion,” and collaborate with this innovative new center!