Education Week - April 13, 2016 - (Page 23)
Most of today's students
will end up in jobs that
haven't yet been invented."
JONATHAN LASH is the president of Hampshire
College, in Amherst, Mass. Previously, he served
as the president of the World Resources Institute;
the chair of President Bill Clinton's Council on
Sustainable Development; and the secretary of
natural resources in Vermont.
simulated, constructed wetlands in test bins,
and then poured a simulated gray-water
stew of vinegar, milk, coffee, toilet paper, and
other substances through their test wetlands
to mimic what the building's wetlands will
filter and treat daily. From their findings,
they worked with professors to develop
mathematical models of the system. Not
open yet, the building was already teaching. The techniques were sophisticated, but
the approach was the same: experience, experiment, model, reflect, learn.
Most of the students in these seminars
had not enrolled here to study science or
math. But to complete the lab, they had to
learn principles of biology, hydrology, and
calculus. They learned these skills naturally, and, in many cases, unknowingly, because they were excited and challenged by
As a lifelong environmentalist, I am
heartened when students study their school
buildings to learn lessons on the use of resources, sustainability, and conservation.
Learning by doing can be profound at any
grade level. There's plenty of evidence that
the problems they named, only six of the
45 children did so. I asked the children to
close their eyes and imagine themselves
in a better world at the end of a long life.
I described a future without poverty and
war, one in which we treat each other and
animals with respect. Then I invited them
to imagine another child asking, "What role
did you play in helping to bring about this
better world?" With their eyes still closed,
I asked them to silently answer the question and raise their hands if they could now
imagine solving the list of problems. This
time nearly all students raised their hands.
It is a school's job to protect students'
physical, mental, and emotional safety. That
safety comes when children learn to have
agency; to contribute meaningfully in the
world; and to cultivate qualities such as integrity, compassion, and kindness. Our education system must present ethical concerns
through school curricula, empowering teachers and students to think about these issues
in different ways. We must help students become adept researchers able to examine the
complex systems that impact all of our lives.
We must ensure, through schooling, that students receive the knowledge, tools, and motivation to be what I call solutionaries-or
problem-solvers-for a healthier and more
just world. If we succeed in educating students in this way, they will have the skills to
solve challenges with enthusiasm through
whatever careers and professions they pursue. That's a win-win situation for children,
teachers, and our world. n
ZOE WEIL is the president of the Institute for
Humane Education. She is the author of six books,
including The World Becomes What We Teach:
Educating a Generation of Solutionaries (Lantern
experience results in the kind of learning
that students of any age build on and use.
This model of education also spurs innovation. For instance, collaborative research
and mathematical models by our professors
and students on the ins and outs of energy,
water, and waste streams in living buildings
will provide architects, scientists, and engineers with essential information on this new
technology, with implications far beyond our
campus. And we, at the college, see evidence
that this experiential-based model is working: Hampshire ranks in the top 2 percent of
U.S. colleges by percentage of alums who earn
doctorates, according to the National Science
Foundation, and No. 6 on Forbes' list of colleges with the most entrepreneurial alums.
Why is this model of immersive, experiential, student-driven, and project-based education important, across grades, from preschool
through college? Most of today's students will
end up in jobs that haven't yet been invented.
They can be empowered to learn to invent,
question, adapt, create, and collaborate with
gritty resilience. Students engaged through
experience become inspired, self-motivated,
and resourceful as they learn to drive their
own learning. It may start with blocks, but it
lasts a lifetime. n
How Should Schools Purchase
Technology for the Classroom?
By Harold O. Levy
chool districts across the United
States spend billions of dollars
every year on educational technology-buying everything from
desktop, laptop, and tablet computers to apps, online courses, ebooks, videos, and software. Unfortunately,
a sizable chunk of that money is being
wasted on products that are overpriced
and underperform, diverting school funding that could be better used to benefit students in other ways.
Ed tech has become a big business: In
2015, startups in the United States raised
$1.85 billion from investors in almost 200
deals, according to EdSurge.
Schools are faced with a dizzying number of choices in ed-tech products, each
pushed by salespeople who claim that
whatever they are selling is better than
what their competitors are offering. The
New York Times recently reported that
"there are more than 3,900 math and
reading apps, classroom-management
systems, and other software services for
schools in the United States."
The sad truth is that schools are notoriously bad at picking ed tech that will actually help them teach. As a former New
York City schools chancellor, I am one of
the few people who have been on both the
buying and the selling side, so I know of
what I speak. Too many school districts
buy ed-tech products on the basis of good
marketing rather than careful analysis-
the way a child is attracted to the hot toy
of the Christmas season.
At this year's SXSWedu Expo, a new
nonprofit startup called the Technology for
Education Consortium (TEC), for which I
serve as chairman of the board, was announced. It was created to help districts
work together to get the most value for
every dollar they spend on ed tech and buy
the most appropriate products.
Funded with a $750,000 seed grant
from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, TEC has already brought together
about 100 districts to share ed-tech purchasing knowledge, at no charge to the
districts. TEC supports transparency, efficiency, and collaboration among school
districts to improve ed-tech buying policies and decisions. (It is preliminarily
funded by foundation grants and may
ultimately charge member districts a
nominal sum to support its work.)
TEC will enable district leaders to share
ed-tech hardware and software contracts
so that all districts can benefit from the
best terms a vendor offers. TEC will also
fund third-party studies to identify which
ed-tech products deliver the best results
at the best prices. This will enable school
districts-including those that are financially strapped, small and rural, or serving
low-income students-to comparison-shop,
learn from each other, identify implementation issues, and negotiate better
contracts. My vision is for TEC to make
available ed-tech contracts-and implementation issues-to all participating
member districts to finally bring transparency to this industry.
The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, where
I serve as the executive director, supports
ed tech that is effective in expanding educational opportunities for outstanding
low-income students. And we know that ed
tech is an important tool for all students in
our multimedia world.
The vast majority of the ed-tech startups that have proliferated over the last
few years haven't lasted. That often happens with companies in new industries.
But some ed tech has been shown to work
very well. There are language-learning
The sad truth is that
schools are notoriously
bad at picking ed tech
that will actually help
programs that have had amazing success.
And numerous learning-management systems provide simple ways for students to
advance at their own speed. Resources,
like those that appear on the carefully
curated website Edutopia, are nothing
short of visionary. And some local school
districts, such as Houston, that are starting to purchase digital textbooks have
implemented rating programs to winnow
the plethora of offerings to something
more manageable. The federal government has also gotten into the act, with the
appointment of its first adviser to focus on
helping schools use open-source ed tech.
Schools have come a long way from the
days when filmstrips and movies were the
only ed tech around, and when students
spent most of their time in class listening
to teachers, copying material from a blackboard, reading from textbooks, and scribbling in their loose-leaf notebooks.
By upgrading the ed-tech purchasing
practices in school districts so that they
can share knowledge with each other,
members of TEC will be taking an important step that will benefit students and
save money at the same time. n
HAROLD O. LEVY is the executive director of
the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation and a former
New York City schools chancellor. The foundation
helps support Education Week's coverage of
high-achieving low-income students.
EDUCATION WEEK | April 13, 2016 | www.edweek.org/go/commentary | 23
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - April 13, 2016
Education Week - April 13, 2016
N.Y. Flip-Flop Affects Policy In Key Areas
Students Help Shape Measures Of ‘Soft Skills’
Kasich’s K-12 Record
Can Latin Build Young Vocabularies?
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: FCC ‘Lifeline’ Effort Expanded to Bridge the Digital Divide
News in Brief
Study: Tracking Not an Issue For Career-Tech-Education
San Diego Strives to Close Gap In Access to Advanced Courses
High School Coursework Seen Falling Short
Blogs of the Week
Fee-Payer Issue Still Alive, Despite Close Call for Unions
As First Education Secretary, Shirley M. Hufstedler a Pacesetter
ESSA Negotiators Dig Into Regulatory Details
Shield From Deportation Threat To Get Day at High Court
State of the States
Blogs of the Week
JONATHAN LASH: Buildings, Blocks, and Experience
ZOE WEIL: You Are What You Teach
HAROLD O. LEVY: How Should Schools Purchase Technology for the Classroom?
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
PAUL KIHN: The District Is Dead. Long Live the District.
Education Week - April 13, 2016