This article from the U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona highlights his view that changes in education are not connected to “technology, virtual learning, internet access or any of the digital tools” (Koenig, January 2022). And he’s not wrong. The issues that have plagued and continue to plague education are deeply rooted in the system itself. As Tyack and Cuban wrote “the grammar of school is a product of history . . . it results from the efforts of groups that mobilize to win support for their definitions of problems and their proposed solutions” (Tyack & Cuban, 1995, Loc 1123). Notice the date of that statement: 1995.
Now, I recently retired from teaching after 27 years in the classroom so I’ve been privy to the many changes, solutions, and pendulums of initiatives over the years. Most of the changes I’ve seen have been little more than a band-aid to a much larger problem. Take mobile devices in the classroom as an example. Yes, it’s nice (and very convenient) to have access to technology to provide students resources not readily available in the classroom but also as a venue for them to share their learning with a wider audience than just their teacher (me). But adding mobile devices doesn’t change the learning. In fact, research has shown that the adoption of technology in the classroom has not been the catalyst of change as some would have hoped (Kale & Goh, 2014; Shapley, Sheehan, Maloney, & Caranikas-Walker, 2011; Stefl-Mabry, Radlick, & Doane, 2010; Voogt, Erstad, Dede, & Mishra, 2013). According to Cuban, for technology integration to have a positive effect on student learning, the tasks behind its use need to be grounded in pedagogical changes (Cuban, 2013). And, as a classroom teacher and researcher, I completely agree.
I also firmly believe that learning changes with thoughtful planning, flexibility, and an open-mind on the part of everyone involved: teachers, students, administrators, and parents. So, it’s not just pedagogical decisions by teachers, and change certainly does not hinge on whether technology is used (or not ).
The changes needed in education have to be more than just a band-aid…and it’s beyond simply providing more money to schools. I worked at two Title I schools during my entire tenure. We were provided money from the state and federal government. But that didn’t necessarily translate into a revolutionary change for any of the stakeholders. From my experience, that just meant we had money to purchase more devices, licenses/subscriptions, add more after school tutoring session, and maybe add a few more professional development workshops for teachers.
For significant change to occur in education, the whole educational system needs to change. The grammar of schooling needs to change. (Now that’s a blog post for another time.)
But how about this?
Instead of leaders and legislators telling schools and the general public what needs to change, why not ask the ones in the trenches what changes they believe are needed? One of the things that I found very alarming (and sad) were reports from certain entities/organizations who claimed that parental voice was not important in the educational decisions that impacted their own children.
Now, I’m not going to get into a political debate here. I just want to point out that leaving out a huge stakeholder group (parents…aka tax-payers) is not (and should not be) an option. This pandemic seems to have brought out the ugly side of people as I see a large number of finger-pointing going on–playing the blame game, if you will. And shutting out parents from educational decisions? Not good.
But what about the other silent voices out there? Teachers and students?
The solutions to the various educational problems will not be found in more legislation or funding. What I would like to see is a concerted effort to find out:
- What do teachers need?
- What do students need?
- What do parents need?
- What do administrators at the school site need?
Because I tell you what they don’t need: solutions from people far removed from the classroom.
I applaud U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona for realizing that changes in education do not rest with technology devices and connectivity to the Internet. Because change doesn’t happen with things. Change happens with people.
How about talking to students, teachers, and parents about what they need? And I don’t mean a small sample size. I mean HUGE…from a variety of demographics and locales.
One of my goals now that I’ve retired from teaching is to figure out a way to amplify the voices in education. I don’t have access to a huge demographic, but change starts with small steps.
I have a project in mind.
Cuban, L. (2013). Inside the black box of classroom practice: Change without reform in American education. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.
Kale, U., & Goh, D. (2014). Teaching style, ICT experience and teachers’ attitudes toward teaching with Web 2.0. Education and Information Technologies, 19, 41–60. doi:10.1007/s10639-012-9210-3
Shapley, K., Sheehan, D., Maloney, C., & Caranikas-Walker, F. (2011). Effects of technology immersion on middle school students’ learning opportunities and achievement. The Journal of Educational Research, 104, 299–315. doi:10.1080/00220671003767615
Stefl-Mabry, J., Radlick, M., & Doane, W. (2010). Can you hear me now? Student voice: High school & middle school students’ perceptions of teachers, ICT and learning. International Journal of Education and Development Using Information and Communication Technology, 6(4), 64-82. Retrieved from http://ijedict.dec.uwi.edu
Tyack, D., & Cuban, L. (1995). Tinkering toward utopia: A century of public school reform. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Voogt, J., Erstad, O., Dede, C., & Mishra, P. (2013). Challenges to learning and schooling in the digital networked world of the 21st century. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 29, 403–413. doi:10.1111/jcal.12029