Guest blogger Michele King provides a practitioner’s perspective to Randy Wilhelm’s post Web Content is a Source for Differentiated Instruction. Michele is an administrator at a large urban school district and a former 1st Grade bilingual teacher.
By Michele King
As the Instructional Support Coordinator for a large urban district, I am responsible for transitioning our district away from print-based instructional resources to a database driven solution accessed by teachers over the Internet. I read Mr. Wilhelm’s post with great interest and my experience working with teachers closely aligns with the “Schools and Generation Net” survey results.
A compelling finding out of this survey is that 60% of educators agreed districts need to be investing more in digital resources, shifting dollars away from print materials. Teachers perceive (and rightly so) that district level staff typically drive this decision. Instructional trailblazers are often on their own in the digital frontier.
Who are the 40% that disagree with investing more in digital resources? I call them the “binder” teachers – those that cling to papers from days gone by as their primary source for instructional planning. I’ll never forget the occasion in which I visited a teacher’s classroom and found her preparation centered on boxes labeled by months. I could almost hear her thinking, “Oh, it’s January, I better dust off my February box and pull out my Valentine activities. What copies do I need to be making?” The only differentiation I observed was by calendar month.
Malcolm Gladwell, author of the current New York Times best-seller, Outliers, wrote a very interesting article for The New Yorker called “Most Likely To Succeed”. The article discusses how to determine what makes one a “bad” teacher versus a “good” teacher. A key premise of the article is that teachers have to be sensitive to the individual needs of students (hello, differentiation). I wholeheartedly agree with that premise, however, what the article does not discuss is that teachers need help in gaining access to appropriately aligned resources that enable them to deliver instruction in a more targeted and effective fashion.
The first phase of our online instructional guide initiative is to flat line the current curriculum and restructure it into a web-friendly format. The idea is for content to be easily accessed and consumed by the teacher for instructional planning purposes. As I rolled out our pilot program to a dozen or so schools, every single time I presented at least one person brought up the need for more efficient access to web-based resources. Our teachers are hungry for a cultural transition in the schools (and school districts) away from the binder-based mentality to the 21st century notion that teachers should be able to efficiently access what they want when they want it.