The Future of Teaching

Every day, we see stories about teachers who are hanging on by a thread, and we hear stories from teachers who can confirm the same and who are, worse yet, actively seeking other opportunities and will leave their careers in education. It’s not that they don’t want to be teachers, but the challenges of these past few years – on top of the many other pressures teachers face in the classrooms – have become insurmountable for some. We need to look at both how to better support educators and reduce attrition as well as look at how the education system can change to accommodate the drop in availability.

Teacher Shortages Are Growing

Throughout the country, the number of people entering the teaching profession is dropping significantly. According to the National Center for Education, education majors accounted for more than 10% of the degree candidates in 1990-1991. That number fell to 4.2% in the 2018-2019 school year. The pandemic has reduced those numbers even further. According to the U.S. Department of Education, there are teacher shortages in nearly every state for nearly every subject. A quickly generated report on general math resulted in a nine page list of teacher shortages from Wyoming to Puerto Rico.

Supporting Teachers More Effectively

Teacher turnover is damaging to students. According to research by Eric A. Hanushek, Steven G. Rivkin, and Jeffrey C. Schiman, the following impacts occur:

  • Teacher turnover negatively affects achievement despite adverse selection of leavers.
  • Experience loss and grade reassignment account for the negative turnover effects.
  • Negative turnover effects are concentrated in lower-achievement schools.

Reducing teacher attrition, then, has a direct impact on student success.

There are a number of ways we can support our teachers more effectively:

Invest in educators. Increase salaries and offer additional pay when they’re forced to manage both in-class and online students. Pay off their student loans. Cover the costs of all of their supplies; don’t make them beg the internet community to “clear the lists.”

Listen to educators. Listen to your teachers – at the school level, the district level, the state level, and the federal level. Put teachers on the committees that make decisions about policy, health, safety, and, yes, curriculum.

Provide tools for educators. Invest in technology that makes it easier for teachers to do their jobs. This means that at the state and national levels, governments need to free their budgets to invest in equity – broadband for every household, for example. At the district level, districts need to invest in smart technology that makes it easier for teachers to manage not just their teaching responsibilities but all of the other tasks they have, such as SPED reporting and SEL.

Addressing the Tech Skills Gap

There’s a huge tech skills gap. Our partners at Global Grid for Learning have identified some of the risks of not addressing this gap and the threat it represents to our economic stability:

  • Our ability to compete globally could be threatened.
  • Ransomware and phishing attacks are growing more sophisticated, resulting in the need for technically capable workers to thwart the threats to our schools, infrastructures, and businesses.
  • As AI, AR, and VR become commonplace in retail, education, healthcare, and other industries, the demand for technically proficient workers will continue to grow.

Radically Alter the Education System

It’s time for an academic overhaul. We’ve been using the same basic education system for more than a century, and we’re not keeping up. Larry Ferlazzo explores this in his two-part series on Futures Thinking. We need to change how we assess, what we teach, and how we prepare students for the workforce of the future. Lumen™ Touch is at the forefront of the education revolution. What do you want to see for the future of teaching?

Assessments, Learning Loss, and the Future of Learning

A lot of people in the education industry are talking about how the pandemic fundamentally changed education, simply because it was being delivered through a different medium.

We disagree.

If the means by which we expect students to learn is not allowed to change, then change doesn’t happen just because we vary the medium through which education is delivered. In fact, most educators, often bound by the curriculum requirements of their districts, are still teaching the same subjects in the same way with the same assessments. Just because they’re doing it online instead of in person doesn’t mean anything has fundamentally changed – and fundamental changes to education are what we really need.

We Need to Stop Focusing on Failure

If a student is excelling in music and art while failing math and science, then that doesn’t mean they’re failing as a student. It means they demonstrate exceptional skill in areas that can lead to innovation. In order to foster the true passion and talent in every student, we need to make a fundamental change in how we assess success. This point has been brought to bear on how we evaluate learning loss as a result of the pandemic. Dr. Yong Zhao explains during an interview with Dr. Wendy Oliver, published on EdisonLearning:

The pandemic has created a very unhappy environment for a lot of children. They’re isolated, they’re not going to school, and they’re not talking to friends. But at the same time, we probably should pay attention to see how they have grown. Human beings learn from experiences. These experiences have changed our children in different ways. Perhaps now they are better at handling adverse situations. They are now better at making friends online, which is essential in today’s life. Maybe your children are becoming more independent in learning? These are the types of things he stresses we really need to focus on.

Right Now, We Assess Failure and Focus on Failure

From early on in our students’ educational journeys, we focus on measuring failure. We conduct spelling and math tests and mark what they get wrong. We focus on how far beneath the average they are and we assume that wherever they are at that moment academically is where they will remain. This places an undue burden on the students and the teachers when they are forced to approach education in this way. Instead, we should be focused on the successes and strengths students have. When we focus on successes and strengths and take the time to understand a student’s passions and interests, we can find ways to improve their subject matter expertise by teaching through their passions.

Every Student Deserves to Have an IEP

Right now, the only students who qualify for an IEP (Individualized Education Program) are those students who have a disability that is recognized by the federal government. But shouldn’t every student have an individualized learning plan that is customized to meet their needs and help them achieve the best outcome?

We must be particularly cautious as we come out of the pandemic, as there is a push to assess students and determine what they’ve lost by learning from home. Brian Moon explores this in terms of the unbounded concern over learning loss. He points out that part of the problem stems from education focusing on the wrong question: “How do we help students perform better on standardized tests?” By doing this, we are forcing teachers to teach to the test and focus on teaching what students need to know to pass tests instead of engaging their minds.

Moon suggests a new question: “How do we use assessment to accelerate, deepen, and showcase individual student learning?”

How Do We Use Assessment to Accelerate, Deepen, and Showcase Individual Student Learning?

That is the question that needs to be explored as we redefine education in the twenty-first century. But in doing so, let’s focus on Moon’s point:

We need not categorize students as deficient in order to justify improving the efficiency, depth, and meaning of their learning experiences. Assessment scores are finite, but learning is limitless. When we center student growth – rather than points or percentiles – as the goal of education, we expand the possibilities for how schools can provide value.

The Future of Learning

The future of learning should be individualized. Assessments should not be used to penalize students but rather to help encourage learning. And what students learn should be modernized and revolutionized so that the students moving through the education system today are prepared to live, work, and engage in the society of tomorrow. Learn more about how Lumen Touch is contributing to the future of learning.

How to Support Teachers as We Return to the Classroom

July has come to an end, and in August virtually all educators begin thinking about the coming school year as they develop lesson plans and prepare their classrooms. This school year in particular, there are many challenges facing teachers, not the least of which is a teacher shortage in many areas. Given these challenges, what can we do to make returning to the classroom easier?

How Administrators Can Support Teachers

Obviously, one of the best ways to better support teachers is to increase salaries wherever possible. When educators are not burdened with financial stress, they are better able to focus on the most important job they hold. But beyond allotting bigger salaries, administrators can demonstrate support by:

  • Providing teachers with the tools and technology they need in the classroom
  • Listening seriously to their ideas about how to improve education, safety, and the learning environment – and implementing any ideas you can
  • Ensuring they have a safe workplace
  • Saving teachers time by giving them a powerful learning management system that manages curriculum, instruction, assessment, and grading

How School IT Leaders Can Support Teachers

Most schools were already integrating more technology into the curriculum, but that certainly escalated during the height of the pandemic. IT leaders were responsible for making sure students had the equipment they needed, and for providing tech support for students, parents, and teachers throughout the school year.

For most districts, going into the new school year, the focus will shift toward ensuring that classrooms are ready for teachers and students. As more schools convert to smart classrooms, technology – and the experts who make sure the IT infrastructure stays up and running – become more crucial, to ensure the best possible educational experience. As SEL (social-emotional learning) becomes more prevalent in every school, IT leaders can play a much more important role.

How Parents Can Support Teachers

Aaron Cardwell, who was a teacher at Rocketship Public Schools and recently started a position as Assistant Principal at Success Academy Charter Schools, shared advice that went viral on Facebook about how parents of kindergarten and first-grade students can help, as their children begin the school year. He emphasized the focus on practical skills. Read his post here. Parents can also support teachers by:

  • Providing the requested supplies – and sending extra if possible
  • Filling out and returning all forms (a lot of this can now be done online through a parent portal)
  • Responding to and communicating with teachers when parental involvement is needed
  • Supporting their efforts in the classroom by ensuring that their children do their homework each day and come to school prepared to learn
  • Being active in the PTA and in the community, advocating for education equity and support

How the Community Can Support Teachers

There are so many ways the community can support teachers, including getting involved in the school board, attending school district meetings, advocating for the changes that teachers need, and voting “yes” on budget increases in those communities where voter approval is necessary for district funding. However, we know that teachers often spend far more each year on school supplies than their tax-deductible $250, so one thing we can all do to support teachers is to #clearthelist. This is a movement started on social media to help teachers obtain the supplies they need for their classrooms. Another organization, Donors Choose, connects communities and corporate donors with teachers who need project funding. It’s a great way to support education.

A well-educated society is the backbone of an economically strong, socially engaged country – and teachers are a pillar of that society. Our teachers have always been heroes but in most cases have gone unrecognized. The pandemic focused a spotlight on the education system and the value of the teacher versus the institution. It is our hope that everyone will support teachers more fervently going forward.

Preparing Students for the Future Means Radically Changing Education

“Technology is neither the problem nor the solution, it’s just a tool. In the end, these are all human problems that need human-focused solutions.“ 

– Dr. Vivienne Ming

In March 2018, Vivienne Ming gave a speech at the SingularityU Czech Summit about the future of education and how to robot-proof kids. Fast-forward three years and her words are just as prophetic, if not more so, given the huge shift to virtual and hybrid learning we’ve experienced due to the pandemic.

Resolving Inequities

One of the reasons Lumen™ Touch talks so often about inequity in education is that it really does have an impact on the success of the student. When we can resolve inequities, such as access to the internet, access to a computer, and easy access to libraries, the gap is reduced. Ming explains that there is no bigger impact on children’s minds than their experiences within the home, so the other thing we must tackle to give our students a better future is to address economic barriers at home: access to jobs, transportation, mental health, and medical care. This allows parents to provide the kind of role modeling that students need to start with a stronger foundation.

The Connection Between Education, Workforce, Health, and Inclusion

Ming’s research discovered that people who came from a higher socioeconomic status were 10 times more likely to have patents attributed to them as kids who performed similarly but came from poorer socioeconomic backgrounds. When we consider what that means in terms of, as Ming describes it, the massive economic, cultural, and innovative potential that is being squandered, we can clearly see the need to address inequities in education, to take advantage of that potential.

How do we do that?

We level the playing field by providing access to edtech, AI, and other technologies, so that each student has the opportunity to develop, achieve, and contribute.

“In the future 10-15 years from now, there’s only going to be one job description: adaptive, creative problem solver.”

– Dr. Vivienne Ming

Window of Opportunity: Radically Changing Education Can Happen Now

Between the ages of five and eight, a child’s brain is most impacted by things like childhood household stress and childhood isolation. The trauma of those stresses decreases a child’s ability to develop working memory. Using literacy and numeracy, working memory can also be improved. Ming also discovered, through the course of her work, that grades don’t predict success. She goes further, however, insisting that education should be about helping each individual have a happy, healthy, productive life – not just philosophically but in an objective and measurable way.

How Can Radically Changing Education Help All Students?

According to Ming, we must recognize the trap of assuming that who a student is during one parent-teacher conference is not who that student will always be. So, if we learn to give students what they need in the moment, we can maximize their long-term outcomes. And this approach works whether a student is in elementary school or high school or college. It’s about putting emotional intelligence into education.

“If we keep building them for a world that’s not existing 10 years from now, then we will end up with a society in which a tiny sliver of people will be ready to compete.”

– Dr. Vivienne Ming

Watch her presentation here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_y5dhBdg48M

Hindsight 2020: A Year Filled with Hope

Do you remember what you were doing a year ago today? You might have been sending the kids off to school, driving to work, or shopping for Christmas presents. You most likely weren’t running back in to grab your mask, transforming your dining room into a work-study area for your kids, or angling your laptop just right for the light and background in your bedroom to hop on yet another zoom call. A lot can change in a year. And from our perspective, it’s a year that points to the endurance of spirit, the kindness of strangers, and the ability to transform challenge into progress.

We Will Endure

We’ve worked through challenges to overcome everything from zoom bombs to Wi-Fi inequity. Along the way, we’ve learned that teachers are wonderfully committed beyond all expectation to caring for their students – and that they can get pretty creative in finding ways to do just that – like the teacher laying on the side of the road recording an ant hill for his students using a GoPro. Or the teacher who used his stimulus check to pay his students’ utility bills. Or all of the teachers who showed up this fall – in person, online, and both – still ready to give their students 100% every day.

We Are All Innovators

The saying necessity is the mother of invention has never been more accurate. From parking buses in neighborhoods to deliver WiFi to rolling out new technology to make it easier for schools to safely track and monitor student heatlh, innovative solutions have been in abundance to help students, teachers, parents, and schools have a successful year. Nowhere has that innovation been more apparent than from the scientists who have rapidly developed multiple viable vaccines.  

Hope Is Eternal

Throughout this year, amidst the tears, frustration, and loss, there has been an underlying feeling of hope. From a renewed appreciation for the essential workers in our communities to empty pet shelters across the country, good things happened in 2020. Here are some of the highlights:

Vaccines are being distributed as we speak. Our ability to endure, innovate, and maintain hope will see us through to a BRIGHTer 2021.

Decreasing Teacher Attrition with Bright Learning

Admittedly, the path for teachers has never been an easy one. And with tight budgets and larger class sizes, teacher attrition is at an all-time high. Losing talented teachers places an enormous burden on those school districts that are forced to cobble together enough staff to meet the needs of the students. At Lumen Touch, we believe that the right technology can help districts retain talented teachers by giving them tools that allow them to meet instructional mandates without losing touch with what got them into teaching in the first place: having a positive impact in the lives of children.

The Problem

Over the last decade, as budgets have tightened, teacher pay in many schools has stagnated. At the same time, new mandates are now in place that require teachers to spend more time working. This has resulted in the highest number of teachers quitting since the Department of Labor started measuring the sector in 2001.

The Solution

A multi-pronged approach to solving the teacher shortage is required. Clearly, states must prioritize education in their budgets, but that has been and will continue to be an ongoing fight. In the interim, districts must do what they can to minimize the impact on teachers. One way to do this is by finding ways to stretch their school budgets – through grants and strong community volunteer programs, for example. Another way to help is by integrating technology that reduces the workload for teachers. For most teachers, stress and long hours are as much the cause for them leaving the profession as is the pay lag.

Bright Learning™ Empowers Teachers

Bright Learning is a powerful resource that puts teachers back in control of meeting standards, by aligning student achievement and standards-based grading. The system gives teachers a “command center” from which they can map standards to curriculum, assess students, and evaluate progress easily and simply. With an integrated gradebook and lesson planner, teachers save time, aggravation, and stress while better meeting mandates – and having more class time to truly engage with students on a more personal level.

At Lumen Touch, we know that there are no simple answers to solving the big challenges that face educators. But there are changes that can make a difference. Bright Learning is one such change. To learn more, get in touch.