The Confusing World of Education Reform

#edtech #edchat #ties12


I thought I was going the right direction with the changes I had been making in my tech class, but now I am starting to doubt my changes.

I am sooo confused…

A few days ago while giving workshops at the TIES Conference in Minneapolis I attended the keynote address given by Tony Wagner. Dr. Wagner is the author of the book: Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World. A book which I read this past summer; it changed how I am as an educator and a parent.

So you can imagine how exciting it was for me to be sitting on the front row, sometimes having press credentials really pays off, listening to one of my personal education reform heroes. I was taking notes and snapping photos when suddenly he said something that made me pause.

He said that we needed to get away from the traditional educational practice of rewarding our students for the work that they do. He was referring to the grades that we give students. He kept referring to the “culture of schooling” and said that we have got to stop with the idea of “reward compliance.” He continued that we need to stop relying on rewards as motivation for our students. This culture of schooling does not build innovators.

What the???

I have just spent the past year reworking my edtech lessons into a system of badges that does just that, it rewards my students with both physical and digital badges for the tech skills that they have earned. Had my hero just sucker-punched me?

I felt betrayed. I don’t remember much of the rest of his keynote, I did take notes, but I was in a fog. My mind spinning about the time I had wasted on trying to fix my technology class. I was four months into a live test of my edtech badges program and now I didn’t know what to do .

So I got on the plane back to Denver and started to re-read sections of his book, looking for a glimmer of hope that my work had not been in vain.

Finally at 36,000 feet I found what I was looking for and began to realize that I mis-understood his point.

If the only motivation a student has to do good work is to get an “A,” then we are doing a dis-service to education. Unfortunately, our schools are basically set up this way. However, if the “A” is just a result or measure of great understanding on the student’s part then a reward or symbol of accomplishment is okay.

Take for example my own daughter, when she was in high school, she would just look at the rubric for a project and check off everything in the far right column so she could get the A, all with little or no understanding of the subject. Every time she would write a paper it would be in the perfect 5-paragraph-style, another A. All she wanted were the A’s. Actually learning the material was not even on her radar. Now in university, she has to rethink her skills as a student as she works on really learning in her classes and not just trying to get an A.

My Edtech Badge Program is nothing like this, I use the badges to represent tech skills that the students have proven that they have. Tech skills that are vital for them to be the innovators that Dr. Wagner wants them to be.

Whew! My hard work in education technology reform was safe for now, but I am going to rethink about attending keynotes on subjects that might jeopardize the little box I like to live in