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Journey to 2030: What Happens When Teachers Imagine the Future of Education?
by Sandy Merz
In our Transforming Schools Together series, teachers affiliated with the Center for Teaching Quality invite us to re-imagine the very concept of school, and suggest small actions we can take to improve existing schools.
Across America, hundreds of accomplished teachers are imagining today what education will look like tomorrow. We foresee how our profession can better serve students through custom–tailored instruction, interactive ties with the community, and hybrid roles for teachers.
In partnership with the Arizona K12 Center and the Center for Teaching Quality, teacher leaders representing diverse contexts and communities in Arizona met virtually and face-to-face over eight months. Along with reading the book, TEACHING 2030, we debated and imagined how the best teaching practices, combined with the most innovative technology, will look if taken to scale. The products of our work? A five-minute film and a report titled Journey to 2030: Our Vision for the Future of Teaching and Learning.
Here are our four main ideas:
1. We dream of new teaching and learning ecologies that combine teaching expertise with new discoveries in brain research and cutting-edge technology. Teachers will develop a fine-tuned, personal education plan for each student.
In my algebra class, tests are diagnostic tools. This week, I see that Maya and Corina each miss four problems on a test. But having the same grade doesn’t mean they have the same understanding of the material. Maya tends to get the right numerical answer, but the wrong sign. Corina misses problems that use the distributive property. When each girl masters her own area for improvement, she’ll be set her up for success in the next unit. So I search online materials to find a relevant assignment for each.
Of course, knowing how a student learns is as important as knowing what each student needs to learn. I’ve noticed that Maya and Corina like to work with peers and learn well that way. So, I seat them together as they work through their assignments.
In 2030, I have access to my students’ individual learner profiles in a digital data network. A student’s profile includes learning styles, strengths, interests, and areas for improvement. I contribute new information as I get to know my students, and all digital assessments feed the data network, too. Each learner profile suggests lessons and techniques tailored for that student. I’ll use data and resources, along with my professional judgment, to offer Maya and Corina individualized instruction from the first day of school.
2. We dream that schools become community hubs with seamless connections in and out of cyberspace. Teachers, students, and families join local and distant professionals, volunteers, and businesses to work on activities that benefit the entire community.
Meanwhile, in my colleague John’s technology class, Corina is using Google Sketchup to design three-dimensional models of a house. Our principal recently introduced John to an engineer who wants to share his expertise about virtual reality with students. They've met and are forming an after-school club, but John needs a set of special goggles that enable students to “walk through” their home designs in three dimensions.
A local architect offers a free summer workshop at the community hub for anyone in the community who wants to sharpen their design skills. John recommends that Corina participate. During the workshop the architect notices Corina's gift for design. She shows him the sophisticated virtual reality models she’s been building at school, and he offers her an internship. They even arrange with the school for her to gain credit toward graduation.
3. We dream that innovative teachers can choose different career paths. Teachers will be able to combine a half-time teaching job with another half-time role that benefits students.
Kate and our language arts teacher, Cynthia, have attended workshops on teaching literacy. They learn a method called “talking to the text,” which they use to help Maya and Corina engage more actively with their reading. Cynthia, nine years into her experience, is hoping to take her career to the next level. She hates leaving the classroom, but it’s the only way up for her.
Meanwhile, I work with a team of National Board Certified Teachers. We coach current candidates who are working through that rigorous certification process. The candidates develop a more reflective practice, identifying how best to instruct each student, with each lesson, every day.
In 2030, Kate, Cynthia, and I are "teacherpreneurs" –serving in hybrid roles. Our positions split a half-time teaching load equally with other responsibilities. Kate mentors teachers as they learn to teach literacy skills. Cynthia researches the impact of a new teaching method she’s developing. Along with coaching National Board Certification candidates, I work with the district administration to develop a policy to extend the reach of our community hubs. None of us must abandon the work we do with students.
4. We dream that teaching will be an esteemed profession, sought after by top graduates. Some of the highest paid professionals in school districts will be teacher leaders who develop the most innovative programs, resources and community relationships. No one will remember when it was otherwise.
What you can do to help make this future a reality: Realizing this vision will require big changes over time but there are two easy things you can do now:
- Check out our Journey to 2030 film or report, and share it with at least one other person who cares about the future of our public schools.
- Follow and use the hash tag #az2030 to develop and share your ideas about innovations in education.
As we start the new year, help teachers move forward with our dreams for our students and profession. After all, isn't this what teaching is all about?
Click here to add sharing the Journey to 2030 video with someone else to your GOOD "to-do" list.
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