Sunday, February 26, 2012
Equipoise in Education?
Recently, @mrmcgrann tweeted out that he had a question for Bill Gates. You can read his whole post here (and you should, I'll be here). Here's his question: To fuel innovation, we often need to take risks. Risks come with many rewards, but they also come with failure. How do you balance teacher accountability while supporting and promoting innovative teaching? This is an excellent question. Because if we take risks, we have to accept failure--it's an integral part of the process of growing to better practice. The only thing is---those are real kids and it is their learning with which we will be a risk. In Auburn Maine, some educators took an expensive and visible risk and did a randomized study with Kindergarteners and iPads. They found that using the devices with specific apps had a small but significant positive impact on literacy in just a few months. early trials of AZT with AIDS patients. Does this mean that the district is now obligated to immediately provide iPads to all the kindergarteners? It's probably not that easy. So what about the opposite? What happens when a risk leads to a "nope, this isn't helping" result? When kids in the study group learn less than those with the traditional treatment? Maybe when corporate profits dip for a year, it's not a tragedy. But when a group of kindergarteners learns less about letters and sounds for a year, well, it just might be. So the stakes are high. And its not the teachers who really pay the price of failure, it's the kids. And maybe that's why it's so hard to figure out how to support truly innovative teaching.