The last couple of days, I have been reading a report from the Fordham Institute on the relationship between educational reform initiatives and online learning: Education Reform in the Digital Era. I’d imagine that the report would be eye-raising to many within the independent school community, both for some of the suggestions and ideas and for the way that the current teaching and learning landscape is described. And yet, I think that there are lots of lessons to be learned for those of us who love independent school and care about their future in an increasingly digital world.
Chapter 1 of the report “Teachers in the Age of Digital Instruction” is particularly helpful in this regard. In chapter 1, Bryan and Emily Hassel (of Public Impact) make the case for teacher effectiveness in a world with an abundance of options for online education:
In the digital future, teacher effectiveness may matter even more than it does today, as these complex instructional tasks are left to the adults responsible for each student’s learning. Teachers who nurture motivated, tenacious problem solvers while using new technologies to reach more children can become the fuel of local, state, and national economies. Schools will not need as many teachers as we know them. But excellent instructors, many in new roles, will need the right technology and instructional supporting teams to achieve excellence at scale, within budget, and potentially for much higher pay than today. - Education Reform in the Digital Era, p. 12
Think about the way that the “teacher of the future” is described here: teachers matter more. And yet, teachers don’t matter more because they are the best at explaining how to solve an equation or how to understand a Shakespearean sonnet, but because:
As digital tools proliferate and improve, solid instruction in the basics will eventually become “flat”—available anywhere globally. The elements of excellent teaching that are most difficult for technology to replace will increasingly differentiate student outcomes. - Education Reform in the Digital Era, p. 11
For a number of years, we have been working to have our faculty move from being the “sage on the stage” to being the “guide on the side.” And, many within our faculty ranks I think have bristled at this change in their role and felt like it devalued the importance of their work. It seems to me that Bryan and Emily Hassel may have given some of the language that we can use to help faculty understand that a new role of faculty is, in fact, perhaps more important than ever before.
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Brad Rathgeber (he/him/his)