Thinking about the role of textbooks
Feb 14th, 2011 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

from Desales University Library

I was recently reading the Foundation for Excellence in Education (2010) Digital Learning Now! document.  Of particular interest to me was “Element #5:” Content:  digital content, instructional materials, and online and blended learning courses are high quality.  Check out this forward-thinking statement:

States should abandon the lengthy textbook adoption process and embrace the flexibility offered by digital content. Digital content can be updated in real time without a costly reprint. The ongoing shift from online textbooks to engaging and personalized content, including learning games, simulations, and virtual environments, makes the traditional review process even less relevant.

Transitioning to digital content will improve the quality of content, while likely saving money in production that can be dedicated to providing the infrastructure for digital learning.

This will be a tough nut to crack, but once schools and districts start thinking this way, there will certainly be an improvement in quality.  I started down this path in 2007 when I assumed the role of the first science department chair at Oxford High School.  My perception of the biggest challenge is the time to develop and maintain the high quality resources as part of the blended learning environment.  This, unfortunately, probably is not “doable” by the classroom teacher alone because there is just not enough capacity to give teachers the necessary time to make it all work.  But . . . teachers are key to the process.  So partnerships are a necessity.

Competency-based learning
Feb 2nd, 2011 by Frank LaBanca, Ed.D.

When we consider education based on achieving standards versus measuring performance, we start to rethink the way it looks. I’ve got to say, people talk about innovation, but making major changes in schools is a challenge. Read this (pretty progressive for a union president):

Once we free ourselves from a factory model and the time practices handcuffed
to that structure, we must rethink such unquestioned time-honored practices as:
• Grouping kids in grades;
• Grading as a way to communicate what has been learned;
• Moving kids around based on bell schedules;
• Separating subjects divided into discrete time blocks; and,
• Connecting high school graduation with Carnegie units.
Schools can no longer be expected to change and still look the same. It’s time to
get away from the legacy of the factory that imprisons us, as educators, as well as
the students we teach. We know that ‘a cage for every age’ is an archaic and dysfunctional
way to group students. It’s for us to start questioning the sacred rituals
of schools and school systems. We can use time as the catalyst to do just that.

– Dr. Ellen Bernstein, President of the Albuquerque Teachers Federation, Testimony at the
U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Field Hearing on Innovative
Approaches to School Time, 2010

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