Andrew Miller of the George Lucas Foundation-funded Buck Institute for Education offers his own perspective on teachers as architects of online curriculum.
As an experienced teacher, there are many things that keep me in the game all these years. Student achievement is of course the number one, but related to that is the “how.” How am I ensuring that all students are successful? How am I scaffolding the work for students? How do I keep them engaged? Of course all of these critical reflective questions are answered in part by the one the most talked about pieces of education: curriculum and instruction.
There are some amazing companies out there that are creating innovative and new ways to engage students. All of them are using best practices and technologies to create online courses to be delivered to a variety of providers and clients. As a teacher, I am torn by this. I am happy to have curriculum handed to me, because I may not know where to start, or I need resources. As a beginning teacher, I definitely need more of this help. As an experienced teacher, I need less of it. I believe there is one thing that is being missed in online curriculum, a way for teachers to partner in the way the curriculum is created and delivered. Teachers need to have a way to create the curriculum while it is being delivered. This makes sense for a few major reasons:
1) Teachers Need to Be Valued as Innovators in Curriculum. Teachers are trained professionals that want to improve their practice. How can they improve if they aren’t practicing? While teachers are actively involved in planning and synchronous sessions, they should be involved in the planning of the curriculum. Train them and give them the tools to create the best curriculum. Not only is it healthy to the professional, but it is also healthy for the student, who gets the best curriculum from a teacher who knows and is it experienced in its pedagogy.
2) Free Resources Are Available. There are so many online educational resources that are free. Why shouldn’t we use them? Give teachers the opportunity to be tech-savvy and access the culture of their kids. It will allow us to see how well these resources work and how they can be improved for the betterment of our students. Mike Smith even crafted a great list of these resources.
3) Teachers Know their Students. Our best teachers know their students inside and out. They know what works for them, and what does not. They experiment and try different strategies in order to make their students successful. They should have the ability within an online course to create content and modify on a daily basis. It is best for our students and allows the teacher to become a better teacher that reaches all students.
Curriculum companies are innovating to create some of the best curriculum out there. In addition to utilizing this, we need to utilize our practitioners; those who are in the trenches serving our students. We need to provide them with the best resources, while still allow the flexibility to modify to meet the needs for all students. We will end up with not only the best curriculum that serves all students, but also the best educators who feel valued. When teachers are valued, they will continue to serve their students to the best of their ability reflecting on their practice and co-creating the best curriculum. It is not only fair, but also prudent to evaluate and hold our teachers accountable for not only the day to day delivery of the content, but in the construction in the larger method of delivery: the curriculum.
More from Andrew at Dropout Nation: Online Learning & Changing Education