Magazine article Techniques

Time of Change

Magazine article Techniques

Time of Change

Article excerpt

THE INSTRUCTIONAL ENVIRONMENT IS IN A STATE OF TRANSITION BASED ON A variety of forces including:

* A reduction in the number of textbook publishers over the past decade from approximately 30 to a handful.

* Significant increases in digital material at all levels, with economics as a driving force.

* The well-intentioned Common Gore initiative has become a political issue in many areas.

* Acronyms are ill-defined and function at many levels of abstraction (e.g., STEM).

* Student loan issues are impacting political, public and private college educational entities.

* Public funding issues persist, and Perkins money has declined in real terms.

* Testing has become a major factor as part of the quest for federal support (e.g., No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top).

Technology is forcing changes on the basis of low-cost digital alternatives. The challenge is adapting the educational process to take optimum advantage of these changes. Publishers and online providers-including Today's Class-are offering new and integrated products, ranging from digital text to interactive material, to online database services. Some administrators at the state level are purchasing large systems (e.g., generic learning management systems and specialized student data systems) in their desire to improve instructional support and educational reporting activities.

A major publisher has faced bankruptcy and others may follow. For decades, publishers have had very successful business plans, as did General Motors, Kodak and other major business entities. When the market and the economic environment change, a business model that has been successful for decades may fail, and changing the model and culture of a major organization is extremely difficult. Organizational overhead that originally facilitated effective operations can become a major cost burden.

At the classroom level, the good news is that there is an increasing array of cost-effective options to provide content, engage students, enable assessments, communicate and manage student data. The challenge is to explore, evaluate and implement alternatives that can benefit the educational process.

It would be helpful if state and local teacher organizations could leverage the talent of some of their members to facilitate workshops on some of the issues posed by technical change. Examples of workshops might include: basic computer skills (updates on browsers, Word, Excel, etc.), test design, student-recognition models, lesson plan design, learning management systems, virtual-learning environments, team-based learning, digital parental engagement, engaging industry standards and facilitating advisory committees. …

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