Teachers say technology can help them overcome a chronic shortage of materials and replace outdated textbooks.
Incredibly, it is estimated that almost $10 billion is spent every single year on putting the latest technology into U.S. schools in a relentless drive to prove that the new digital age can help improve education outcomes and efficiency. But there is not a jot of evidence that this huge investment has made an ounce of difference.
Today, the technology trend is to have individual tablets linked to Smartboards at the front of the class, which in turn pump data between the pupil, the teacher and the district. But the impact of this technology on education remains completely unproven on any scalable basis. Collecting the data is one thing; inspiring children to learn is another.
More incredibly still, much of the investment in technology has been spent without the input or advice of the only people who know exactly what works in the classroom – the teachers themselves.
But, by choosing resources that have already been tested and rated by other teachers, any teacher, anywhere, can confidently find the perfect classroom lesson and know it will work.
My company, TSL Education, has partnered with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) to launch Share My Lesson. We developed this platform to harness the vast amount of knowledge and expertise of US teachers and make it easy for them to share resources with one another. And it’s already taken off - over 200,000 teachers have signed up since its launch last summer, and there are already over 250,000 dedicated US classroom resources.
What they are telling us is that it helps them overcome the chronic shortage of materials – which budget cuts have forced on many schools – but also that it fits in precisely with the new way of working. In a recent independent survey of 2,000 US teachers conducted by The Parthenon Group, almost 90 percent said they were spending more time finding content for their classroom, and 87 percent anticipated that the use of digital content found on the internet will rise over the next two to three years.
This contrasts with almost half saying that print textbooks will be used less. And it’s no surprise – we’ve found the average age of a textbook in the US is 5.8 years. Strikingly, one in 10 teachers said their textbooks were over 10 years old. Why use such an outdated medium when you can download completely up-to-date content produced for teachers by teachers online?
Certainly Brittney Green, a mathematics teacher from Ohio, agrees. Since becoming a teacher two years ago, she told us that she has never used a textbook in the classroom as “textbooks don't understand the in-depth learning of every student.” K-12 computer science teacher Anthony Luscre agrees, saying, “We’re going through the really big push on Common Core here and one of the things the Superintendent is very big on is we really should not be looking at textbooks any longer – the teacher should have a more active role in selecting specific content to meet the objective.”
Both Green and Luscre are now increasingly selecting their teaching resources online. But not only that - they’re also uploading their own, so other teachers can use them too. Reflecting the altruism of the teaching profession, Green told us, “It’s a really good feeling that the resources I spend a lot of time on are things that other teachers want to use with their kids in their classroom.”
I believe that by harnessing the expertise and knowledge of the best teachers in the US – and by making that knowledge available to every teacher – it is teachers themselves who can fundamentally improve students’ learning experiences in every single classroom in every single state. And, unlike most of the technology implementations of the past decade, there is no big fat public-sector bill attached. We just have to ask the very people who know how to get it done.
Louise Rogers is the CEO of TSL Education, whose online platforms include TES Connect, home to the largest network of teachers in the world, and Share My Lesson, a joint venture with the AFT, which hosts one of the largest collections of resources aligned to Common Core State Standards available online.
All statements and opinions expressed on this blog are those of the individual contributors, and not of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation or NBC News.