Flanagan, J. (2017). Commentary: ISTE’s response to “Reflections on Preparing Educators to Evaluate the Efficacy of Educational Technology.” Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 17(2).   https://citejournal.org//proofing/commentary-istes-response-to-reflections-on-preparing-educators-to-evaluate-the-efficacy-of-educational-technology

Commentary: ISTE’s Response to “Reflections on Preparing Educators to Evaluate the Efficacy of Educational Technology”

by Jim Flanagan, International Society for Technology in Education

I appreciate the opportunity to provide feedback on Joseph South’s interview summary.  Thanks to Glen Bull for the great background, questions, and concise summary, and thanks to Randy Hansen, an ISTE board member, for sharing it with me and providing the opportunity for feedback.

Since I am a strong supporter of the teacher preparation innovation initiatives and a fan of Joseph South and the OET team, it should come as no surprise that I strongly support his commentary.  Therefore, my feedback generally serves to amplify his commentary and provide same additional ideas or depth.  The paper inspired me to share several perspectives which admittedly are not as clear, concise, and coherent as those from Glen and Joseph.  I appreciate your consideration of my ramblings, which are inspired by your thought leadership. Also, while I might be critical of aspects of preservice education as a whole, I appreciate that there are many pockets of innovation and considerable momentum.

Question 1

I strongly agree with Joseph’s comment, “Preservice teacher should have a basic understanding of learning theory. They should be able to differentiate between behavioral and cognitive approaches.”  Here is my take on getting more granular in our understanding of instructional technology.  First, we need to set the expectation that teachers are empowered to design, curate and/or select resources.  Second, teachers must be able to identify the learning challenge/objective for each unique audience. Third, teachers must access what the latest learning science indicates will enable each audience.  Only then can teachers (ideally as a team) effectively identify and prescribe the correct technologies to support the instructional practice and reach the learning goal.  The process will seem slow at first but will become intuitive for teachers and they will be able to harvest information from the community of similar practitioners over time.

I like this quote from Marilyn vos Savant: “If a person knows ‘what’ happens, they have average ability; if they know ‘how’ it happens, they have superior ability; if they know ‘why’ it happens, they have exceptional ability.”  Developing the “why it happens” level of understanding can take years, but preservice educators should be sharing their insights and helping their students aspire to get to the “why” themselves.

Finally, while not directly related to instructional technology, I believe that preservice teacher education needs to help teachers understand that bias is a natural part of being human and that to overcome it they need to reflect on data as teams (see Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman).  Teacher education graduates should own their part of the equity challenge by demanding and embracing better data that helps to expose the growth potential of every student as well as the challenges.

Question 2

Like Joseph, I do not have specific knowledge of education leadership development programs.  What I do find interesting is that when I pursued a Masters in Management (aka MBA,) there were people from all industries except for education.  The subjects we covered were often less about business and more about the management of complex systems with topics like data management, statistics, organizational and change management, innovation, design, technology selection/deployment, and so forth.  I do not think that educational leaders are afforded the same opportunity, and they should be, whether with more time dedicated to these management topics in masters and doctoral programs or with joint programs with business schools.

In preservice teacher programs, we can start by preparing teachers with skills in computational thinking, statistics, design thinking, and so forth (see the emerging 2017 ISTE Teacher Standards) as well as developing their understanding of how successful teams and complex systems succeed.

Question 3

We also must better identify and segment the student population.  We too often succumb to the factory model, applying a one-size-fits-all model, and we do not sufficiently account for variables.  If a solution works for only 30% of a grade level but works consistently over time for about 30% of students with similar attributes, do we consider it a success as part of a personalized model or dismiss it.  Is our research student centered or teacher/classroom/school centered?  When consumer product companies conduct research, they do not base it primarily on demographics or random groupings like schools or classrooms; they also consider behaviors, personas, and so forth.   We need to develop similar techniques to identify if a practice works for which students and how, when, why, and where?  

Question 4

Quite simply, schools of education should model the best possible teaching and learning practices based on the latest learning science.  How many professors can say that they have designed their instruction in this manner?  If not, we are perpetuating the factory models of schooling and should not be at all surprised when graduates reinforce the model in their classrooms.  Graduates of teacher education programs should understand and model lifelong, self-directed learning based on learning science.  Wouldn’t it be great if we could start graduating classes of educators who would radically (and academically) challenge much of the poor professional learning they encounter and be empowered to advocate for themselves?  In sum, all educators should always be assessing if they are helping to develop empowered learners (as defined by the 2016 ISTE Student Standards) or reinforcing overly dependent learning in their instructional practice?

Finally, are the schools of education also leading the transformation of the broader institutions in which they exist?

Question 5

We are missing partnership opportunities at every level.  Students should be able not only to learn in classroom settings but also support the teachers in short-cycle research.  Universities should provide more accessible research and help schools codevelop short-cycle research, design labs and skunkworks (that is, small and loosely structured groups of people who research and develop a project primarily for the sake of radical innovation; from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skunkworks_project).

All educators should be trained in human-centered design.  Schools of education should feel more like design labs and centers of innovation that extend out into their partner schools.  They should attract investments from ed tech companies and organizations seeking to test solutions.

Also, how are preservice programs helping teachers understand a key stakeholder – future employers of the students?  This pervasive disconnect contributes to teacher isolation – especially with parents who work for the employers.  This is most evident in cases in which educators prohibit the use of technology that is required in the workplace.

Additionally, universities and preservice teacher programs need to lead in researching and promoting more innovative assessment and student feedback, in particular.  I believe that the market for adaptive solutions is still early (with many posers), but it holds perhaps the greatest promise to help students build automaticity and deeper understanding of declarative and procedural knowledge in order to support higher level applications.