The beginning of a new year always prompts list-making — resolutions, what went right last year, what can be done better in the next. How will 2013’s trends shape the year ahead? Looking into a crystal ball (and with input from experts), these are just two of many)movements we hope will take shape in classrooms across the country in 2014.
Self-Directed Learning Using Digital Tools Will Take Center Stage
In 2013, we observed the logistical and ideological mistakes of Los Angeles Unified iPad roll-out, as well as the confusion and difficulty with which schools grappled with computer-based testing created to align with the Common Core. But as many educators know, there’s much more to technology use than those stories tell.
Many hope that 2014 will be the time to find that holy grail — using technology to go beyond providing efficiency and management to truly transforming student learning. The schools that will stand out in the year ahead are the ones creating space for multi-modal learning environments, “where open-ended project design rooted in real-world problem solving are capturing the imagination and interest of students,” said Matt Levinson, Head of the Upper School at Marin Country Day School and author of From Fear to Facebook: One School’s Journey.
Levinson said the trend he sees taking shape is a kind of old-meets-new story in which the constructivist dreams of 100 years ago come to fruition using personalized digital technology. Teachers will play a prominent role, but in a newly defined and conceived role, along the lines of constructivist learning, popularized by John Dewey over a hundred years ago, Levinson said. “Ironically, the technology is enabling learning to take steps back in time, almost to the 15th and 16th century tutorial learning environment that only the royal households were able to employ for the exclusive few,” he said.
Does that mean more schools across the nation will embrace inquiry learning even as they implement Common Core State Standards in 2014? Will that even be possible? In the following year, we hope to chronicle case studies and classrooms where this is happening.
“Opting In” to Authentic Assessment
In 2013, a scrappy group of parents and teachers voiced their concern for high-stakes standardized testing by opting kids out of testing altogether, gaining ground through opt-out evangelists and growing media coverage. Education professor Tim Slekar, a founder of United Opt-Out National, said that he believes 2014 will be a banner year for the movement. “Since March [when the first round of Common Core-aligned tests were issued], we’re adding 100 members a day,” he said. According to Slekar, New York is the state to watch for the biggest push against their latest “test and punish” standards that have put parents, teachers and students on edge. “I feel comfortable making a prediction for 50-60 percent opt-out participation in New York State,” in the spring of 2014, he said, adding that the state’s new standards and testing culture are “the opt-out movement’s best recruiters.”
But even though he has no official numbers of how many students opted out of testing in 2013 (he estimates a roughly 5 percent opt-out rate in his former home state of Pennsylvania), Slekar guesses that Common Core tests administered in the spring of 2014 will add even more members to opt-out’s rolls.
Slekar said that for parents and teachers, opting out of state tests is only the first step to changing the culture. United Opt-Out National plans on unleashing a spring campaign asking parents and teachers to “Opt-In” to authentic assessment. “This [movement] is not a rejection of assessment, or testing. This is a rejection of corporate-imposed test-and-punish accountability,” he said. “We want authentic, valid, personal meaningful assessment to rule the day.”