Marty Keltz and Jena Ball
Anyone who’s been in education any length of time knows the feeling. A TED talk, blog post or quote shared by a colleague reignites your passion for teaching; a child’s eyes light up as she discovers the answer to a question; and something you hear in a Twitter chat makes you sit up, take notice and think, “Hey, I can do that!” We call those feelings, “aha moments,” and we’ve been having them for several weeks now during a Twitter chat called, #Edtechbridge.
Despite its techie title, the real power of #Edtechbridge lies in the bridges participants are forging between industrial era, one-size fits all approaches to education – which quality test children like cars coming off an assembly line – and 21st century models, which stress the importance of teaching the whole child by finding and nurturing what makes each unique.
Educators who show up for #Edtechbridge not only articulate, discuss and suggest real-world solutions to issues facing teachers, but propose alternative, some might say disruptive, approaches to educational reform as well. That many of these discussions include technology is to be expected, but are nothing new. The equivalent of today’s Genius Hour and Maker Movement were already happening in the mid 1960s during the Media Literacy movement, and were supported, in part, by the first federal title grants (Elementary and Secondary Education Act) under Lyndon Johnson. What distinguishes #Edtechbridge is the opportunity to meet and collaborate with a global community of educators who not only inspire but empower one another as well.
The best and most exciting example of empowerment we can offer is the conversation about crowdfunding and disruptive technologies that began two weeks ago. Participants were discussing their frustration with the one-size fits all approach to education, in which 85% of instructional material dollars go to purchase basal textbooks produced by a handful of publishers with little or no input from classroom teachers. This leaves little or no money for what have come to be called “supplemental or enrichment materials” designed to deepen and personalize learning for individual children.
During that initial discussion, we talked about resources, such as PledgeCents and DonorsChoose, that give teachers a way to raise funds for their “supplemental and enrichment materials.” However, subsequent chats have taken the discussion to new and deeper levels. While it’s certainly possible to raise money to purchase art supplies, band instruments and even outdated textbooks, other questions were raised. Why not harness the power of crowdfunding – supported and enhanced by parents, community members, entrepreneurs, and organizations – to fund “real” educational reform? What happens if we start with the premise that we must teach the whole child – mind, body and emotions – regardless of how that child learns? What if we set out to find, purchase and implement educational programs that incorporate multimedia/multi-modal approaches and support the teaching of 21st century skills that include empathy, compassion, collaboration, appreciation for differences and kindness?
Forging potentially powerful alliances between crowdfunding platforms, creative storytelling platforms like Touchcast, and all who have a stake in what and how we teach our kids could have a very disruptive and positive effect on the current system. Instead of focusing on one-size fits all teaching models and high stakes testing, which do little to prepare students to be the collaborative, innovative and creative thinkers most employers say they want to hire (http://www.forbes.com/sites/susanadams/2014/11/12/the-10-skills-employers-most-want-in-2015-graduates/), this new, grassroots business model would be driven by the needs of students and guided by classroom teachers. It would shift the attention from widgets, offering new and better ways to implement and test Common Core Standards, and focus it instead on multi-media storytelling and project based learning. Students would learn through relevant, real-world experiences and become content creators as well. Young film makers, animators, designers, scientists, artists, musicians, writers and mathematicians would be given tools to think creatively, work collaboratively and above all believe that they have something unique and valuable to contribute to the world. Or, as our friend Christina Luce, (herself a deeply committed and creative educator) recently wrote, “We need to embrace curiosity, and cultivate wonder. We need to play, and infuse joy. This need not be a pipe dream, no pie in the sky ideal; no. We are the architects, the innovators, the creators, the voices that together must demand it and make it so.”
#Edtechbridge convenes every Wednesday evening at 7:00 pm (EST), 4:00 pm (PST) and Thursday morning at 9:00 am AEST. Won’t you