Providing Equitable Education To All Students

Program Standard 5

5. Learning Environment – The teacher fosters and manages a safe and inclusive learning environment that takes into account: physical, emotional, and intellectual well-being.

5.1 Element – Creating an Environment of Respect and Rapport

5.1 Example of Proficient – Teacher-student interactions are friendly and demonstrate general caring and respect. Such interactions are appropriate to the age and cultures of the students. Students exhibit respect for the teacher.

equity

There is a debate in this country about whether or not to provide certain students on a 504 plan or Individualized Education Program (IEP) with special accommodations. Those who argue against it say that it leaves students ill-prepared for independent living, that it allows students to graduate without doing much work, and that it is unfair to other students who are required to complete their assignments (Evans, 2008, pp. 324-325). However, an appropriate accommodation does not do anything more than create an equitable environment for all students. According to Byrnes, “An accommodation is an adjustment to an activity or setting that removes a barrier presented by a disability so a person can have access equal to that of a person without a disability. An accommodation does not guarantee success or a specific level of performance. Appropriate accommodations provide the opportunity for a person with a disability to participate equitably in a situation or activity” (Evans, 2008, p. 317).

An accommodation does not allow students to go through school without any effort but merely removes obstacles that would leave certain students far behind their peers academically. Providing accommodations to students also does not make them less prepared for the real world because in this country it is illegal to discriminate against someone based on their disability. 504 plans ensure that future employers cannot overlook a candidate based on their disability and also requires them to provide accommodations for that employee. However, it is important that students needing accommodations be given the proper support so that the right measures are taken in each case. Far too often the same accommodations are made for several students with a wide range of abilities. Byrnes states, “Disabilities differ in individuals. Accommodations must be considered for each individual, not by disability category. The point is to understand the disability and the learning situation and then determine if these interact to pose a barrier to equal access” (Evans, 2008, p. 319). It is important that teachers and other professionals treat each student individually so that the best solution can be found.

References
Evans, D. L. (2008). Taking sides: Clashing views in teaching and educational practice. Dubuque, IA: McGraw-Hill/Dushkin.
Media
The photo in this post has been unedited and was found on Flickr following creative commons licensing.

Character Education In The Hidden Curriculum Of Schools

Program Standard 5

5. Learning Environment – The teacher fosters and manages a safe and inclusive learning environment that takes into account: physical, emotional, and intellectual well-being.

5.1 Element – Creating an Environment of Respect and Rapport

5.1 Example of Proficient – Teacher-student interactions are friendly and demonstrate general caring and respect. Such interactions are appropriate to the age and cultures of the students. Students exhibit respect for the teacher.

school

Character education in schools is a matter of contention for a number of reasons. Some believe that it leads to the indoctrination of a narrow set of values while others simply object to it because they contend that it takes away from valuable classroom instruction on subject matter. However, Elkind and Sweet point out that it is deeply ingrained in schools without even being a part of explicit instruction:

Let’s get one thing perfectly clear—you are a character educator. Whether you are a teacher, administrator, custodian, or school bus driver, you are helping shape the character of the kids you come in contact with. It’s in the way you talk, the behaviors you model, the conduct you tolerate, the deeds you encourage, the expectations you transmit. Yes, for better or worse, you are already doing character education. (Evans, 2008, p. 336)

All of the aspects of character development that Elkind and Sweet speak of are a part of the hidden curriculum within schools. There is no way to avoid influencing the character of students and teachers should be cognizant of their effect on students so that they send the right messages.

How a teacher structures and manages the classroom will set the tone for how students interact with one another. If the classroom is an inclusive space where all opinions are valued then those students will understand that differing points of view in the classroom, as well as larger society, are not only acceptable but also beneficial. Those same students can be taught to disagree with respect which will inevitably influence how they interact with divergent viewpoints for the rest of their life. How teachers interact with students and the underlying lessons that are obtained from the discourse between peers will stay with them into adulthood. As such, teachers need to take the time to explore and understand their own unconscious biases so that those ideas will not unintentionally permeate the classroom. It is crucial that teachers hold students to the same high standard so that all students have the chance to rise to that challenge.

While character education is an inevitable part of schools because of the culture and the interactions that take place, it can also be intentionally integrated into the curriculum without taking away from instructional time. There are so many opportunities during English, social studies, history, science, and even math lessons where teachers can seamlessly work discussions of character into the discourse. Instead of explicitly instructing students on one set of values, educators can encourage them to explore their own viewpoints and develop their own opinions. Teachers can encourage differing perspectives while fostering and encouraging mutual respect between students. It is never the teacher’s job to impose ideologies on students but instead to allow them to explore their own beliefs in a safe, inclusive environment where each voice has merit. Students will benefit long after graduation if they have the skills to meet opposition with regard and dignity.

References
Evans, D. L. (2008). Taking sides: Clashing views in teaching and educational practice. Dubuque, IA: McGraw-Hill/Dushkin.
Media
The photo in this post has been unedited and was found on Flickr following creative commons licensing.

Student Centered Learning Through Technology

International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Standard 5

5. Engage in professional growth and leadership – Teachers continuously improve their professional practice, model lifelong learning, and exhibit leadership in their school and professional community by promoting and demonstrating the effective use of digital tools and resources.

a. Participate in local and global learning communities to explore creative applications of technology to improve student learning.

Program Standard 1

1. Expectations – The teacher communicates high expectations for student learning.

1.1 Element – Demonstrating Knowledge of Content and Pedagogy

1.1 Example of Proficient – Teacher recognizes the value of understanding students’ interest and cultural heritage and displays this knowledge for groups of students.

The use of technology in education has always been a hotly debated subject. Some believed that children should worry more about gaining prescribed knowledge and that the use of technology is unnecessary in that pursuit. Certainly, students can learn literacy, math, science, social studies, and history without it but does that mean that they should have to? Opponents to the implementations of technology in schools argue that it distracts students from their studies because they are used to using it for entertainment (Evans, 2008, 308). If that is the case, then shouldn’t educators take it upon themselves to help students understand what a powerful learning tool it can be? Others argue that young students cannot handle the rigors of digital citizenship and should be taught a strong moral conduct before being allowed to go online at school (Evans, 2008, 307). However, students will be exposed the internet regardless and if it is done in school from an early age teachers can help students understand their role as a responsible member of a digital community. Finally, those who oppose early exposure to technology indicate that students should be exposed at a much older age so that they do not have to learn soon-to-be obsolete technology at a young age (Evans, 2008, 311). Contrarily, it would benefit students to be well equipped to adapt to new technologies, as they are quick and ever changing.

With the prevalence of technology in everyday life, it seems that a more pertinent question should be how should educators integrate it into the classroom. One objection to the use of technology that actually holds some credence is that it can be distracting for students. However, when introduced and used in a meaningful way it can transform learning. One tool that teachers can use when deciding when to integrate technology into the classroom is the SAMR Model for Technology Integration. At the bottom of this taxonomy is substitution where the use of technology would not result in any functional change. Next is augmentation where it would act as a substitution but would also provide functional improvement. One step up on the taxonomy is modification where the task at hand can be significantly redesigned. At the top is redefinition where the teacher is able to use technology to create a new meaningful experience for children that would have been inconceivable without it (Puentedura, 2014). Sometimes the use of technology can be justified even if it just provides a substitution but teachers need to be aware in those cases that it might not be the best option and could lead to distractions. If the technology can redefine learning then there is no question that it should be implemented into the classroom. Another benefit is that it has the potential to ignite student-centered learning and provide them with a stronger connection to the content. There are so many different ways that technology can be seamlessly integrated into a child’s education to transform and redefine his or her learning experience.

One way to redefine education through technology is through epistemic learning programs. David Williamson Shaffer, Kurt Squire, Richard Halverson, and James Gee argue that computer simulations can be a great learning tool and that they are “the most powerful when they are personally meaningful, experiential, social, and epistemological all at the same time” (Evans, 2008, p. 296). Although programs like these are not used in school yet, the authors believe that some video games can act as a framework for future developers. These researchers believe that if developers make learning programs that require the same level of higher reasoning and practical knowledge as certain epistemic video games do that it can help students develop important skills. They maintain that education should integrate learning not only through a mere transmission of facts to be memorized but also through the development of skills. They assert, “We learn by doing—not just by doing any old thing, but by doing something as part of a larger community of people who share common goals and ways of achieving those goals” (Evans, 2008, p. 299). Having students participate in communities within virtual realities can expose them to experience that they otherwise would not be able to achieve in school. For example, students can actually participate in societal issues like politics by participating in the process. Instead of passively learning about how different political systems function they can actively partake of a reality where they are exposed to it and can influence it. This kind of learning has the potential to transform learning and provide children with a more dynamic and student-centered education. This does not mean that technology should replace standard models of teaching but that it should be a meaningful part of the curriculum.

References
Evans, D. L. (Eds.).  (2008). Taking sides: Clashing views in teaching and educational practice. Dubuque, IA: McGraw-Hill/Dushkin.
Puentedura, R. (2014). SAMR and Bloom’s Taxonomy: Assembling the Puzzle. Common Sense Graphite. Retrieved from https://www.graphite.org/blog/samr-and-blooms-taxonomy-assembling-the-puzzle