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‘World-class’ teacher preparation

Shelley Krause

When I work with educators, I get asked on a regular basis, “What about the universities? What are they doing to prepare educators who can facilitate technology-infused learning environments that emphasize deeper cognitive complexity and greater student agency?” Unfortunately, I don’t have much to offer them.

I’m not up on all of the thousands of preparation programs that are out there but, as I think about the shifts that we need to see in schools (and the new building blocks that we need to put in place), at a minimum any teacher preparation program that wanted to label itself ‘world-class’ would be able to affirmatively say the following…

Our graduates know…

Project- and inquiry-based learning

  • how to operate in student-driven, not just teacher-created, project-oriented learning environments
  • how to facilitate inquiry-based activities like ‘passion projects’ or ‘FedEx days’ or ’20% time’ or ‘genius hour’
  • how to facilitate students’ development as creators, designers, innovators, and entrepreneurs
  • how to integrate communication, collaboration, and critical thinking skills into these types of environments

Authentic, real-world work

  • how to organize student work around the big, important concepts central to their discipline
  • how real work gets done by real professionals in that discipline (practices, processes, tools, and technologies)
  • how to find, create, and implement robust, authentic simulations for their subject area
  • how to facilitate and assess authentic performances by students

Standards-based grading and competency-based education

  • how to write and implement a ‘competency’
  • how to help students thrive in a standards-based grading environment
  • how to facilitate learning-teaching systems that focus on mastery rather than seat time (or other dumb criteria)

1:1 computing

  • how to manage and support ubiquitous technology-infused learning spaces
  • how to facilitate student success with digital tools, online systems, and social networks
  • how to help students create appropriate AND empowered ‘digital footprints’

Digital, online, and open access

  • how to leverage digital and online open educational resources to full advantage
  • how to meaningfully curate digital materials in their subject area
  • how to helpfully contribute to our online global information commons (and have students do the same)

Online communities of interest

  • how to utilize online networks and communities of practice to further their professional learning and growth
  • how to meaningfully connect students to relevant online communities of interest for academic and personal development

Adaptive learning systems

  • how to integrate adaptive learning software into students’ learning and assessment
  • how to utilize blended learning environments to individualize and personalize students’ learning experiences (time, place, path, pace)

I think most teacher preparation programs probably fall short of the mark on these, but a program that could say these things about its preservice teachers would be INCREDIBLE.

What do you think? What would you add to this list? More importantly, does anyone know of a teacher preparation program that’s doing well in some / many / most of these areas?

The dignity of the learner comes in second to his or her compliance

Carol Burris says:

[W]atch the Relay Graduate School of Education video entitled ‘[A Culture of Support]‘ . . . . Go to the link and look for the title. In the video, the teacher barks commands and questions, often with the affect and speed of a drill sergeant. The questions concern the concept of a ‘character trait’ but are low-level, often in a ‘fill in the blank’ format. The teacher cuts the student off as he attempts to answer the question. Students engage in the bizarre behavior of wiggling their fingers to send ‘energy’ to a young man, Omari, put on the spot by the teacher. Students’ fingers point to their temple and they wiggle hands in the air to send signals. Hands shoot up before the question is asked, and think time is never given to formulate thoughtful answers. When Omari confuses the word ‘ambition’ with ‘anxious’ (an error that is repeated by a classmate), you know that is how he is feeling at the moment. As the video closes with the command, “hands down, star position, [you are back reading right now]” there is not the warmth of a teacher smile, nor the utterance of ‘please’. The original question is forgotten and you are left to wonder if anyone understands what a character trait is. The pail was filled with ‘something’ and the teacher moves on. . . .

[The teacher] is performing as taught by a system that … better prepares students for the dutiful obedience of the military than for the intellectual challenges they will encounter in college. In schools taught by RGSE teachers, the Common Core State Standards will be, I fear, merely heavier rocks in the pail.

As I watched the video, I thought about the rich discussions, open-ended speculative questions, ample think time, and supportive feeling tone that I find in the classrooms of the teachers at my school. I remember the same culture in the middle school where I taught. Both are diverse schools that serve students with little as well as students with much. Suburban parents would be horrified by the magic finger wiggling and drill techniques used in the video clip. How sad that charter school students are treated as if, were they were given one second to think, the teacher would lose control. How horrifying that [in this school] student grades and punishments are put on public display. The dignity of the learner comes in second to his or her compliance.


Is this imposing upon ‘other people’s children’ the kind of education that White, middle class parents would never accept? Or is it merely giving traditionally-underserved students access to the tools required for accessing the codes and cultures of power?


EdCampIowa logoI am delighted to announce EdCampIowa, Iowa’s first cross-state unconference! EdCampIowa West will be hosted by Prairie Lakes AEA at the Buena Vista University Forum in Storm Lake. EdCampIowa East will be hosted by Bettendorf High School. Both locations will run on Saturday, February 16, from 8:30am to 3:30pm. Our hashtag will be #EdCampIowa.

What’s an EdCamp, you say? EdCamps are unlike any other workshop or conference that you’ve probably attended. EdCamp sessions are created by the attendees in the morning. The rest of the day is spent in conversation around the topics identified by participants.

If this sounds strange to you, it’s likely because you’re used to a different model, one in which the agenda and sessions are determined ahead of time. The challenge of traditional workshops or conferences is that you didn’t get to pick the sessions, someone else did. As such, they may or may not meet your learning needs. At an EdCamp, participants, not planners, determine the sessions so they’re much more likely to be targeted, relevant, and timely. ‘Voting with your feet’ also is strongly encouraged, so you can (and should) quickly leave one session for another if it’s not meeting your learning needs. Since all EdCamp sessions are facilitated discussions that tap into the collective wisdom of attendees rather than ‘sit and get’ presentations directed by outside experts, EdCamps always turn out to be incredible, energizing days of conversation.

How do you know if you’re right for EdCampIowa? If these types of questions resonate with you, you’re a prime candidate:

  • What if we didn’t have class periods?
  • How can we help kids think more deeply?
  • Are high school diplomas and university degrees still necessary for credentialing?
  • What is getting in the way of us changing faster?
  • How can preschool and elementary students use digital tools in powerful ways?
  • What if we didn’t ignore that most of the time students are bored?
  • What might school look like if students were in charge of teaching at least 20% of the time?
  • Do we really need grades?
  • How can we better facilitate school-university partnerships?
  • Are tablets or Chromebooks viable 1:1 devices?
  • What has to go in order to make competency-based student progression work?
  • In a multimedia world, what is the future of reading?
  • and many, many more… (see the EdCampIowa web site!)

We hope that you will join us on February 16 for an amazing day of discussion and learning. We promise that you will leave with many great ideas, excited to take action back home! Registration is FREE, lunch will be provided, and we’ll have Internet access for any electronic device that you bring along. Please encourage your students, staff, school board, parents, legislators, and community members to participate too. Everyone is welcome at an EdCamp!

More information is available at Sign up soon. Only 200 slots at each location!

EdCampIowa Tweet 01

Struggling with educators’ lack of technology fluency


It’s 2012. Technology suffuses everything around us. The Internet and Internet browsers have been pretty mainstream for at least a decade.

And yet, I continually run into significant numbers of educators who still don’t know how to work their Internet browser. They struggle with copying and pasting. They get confused just clicking between 2 or 3 different browser tabs. They don’t conceptually understand the difference between their browser’s Google search box and the box where they can actually type in the URL and get there directly. They have no idea that they can right-click on things like hyperlinks or images. And so on… [And this is just the Internet browser. I'm not even talking about individual software programs or online tools.]

What hope do these teachers have of providing meaningful, technology-rich learning experiences for their students? What hope do these leaders have of creating and adequately supporting powerful, technology-rich learning environments for students and staff? Little to none.

Is it even possible to get these educators to where they need to be? How are we going to do what we need to do for our kids when our current levels of technology fluency and understanding are so low?

Can you tell I’m really struggling with this lately?

[Guiding question: What can we do to build the internal capacity of both individual educators and school systems to be better learners and faster change agents?]

Image credit: Shutterstock

[cross-posted at Education Recoded]

Do we really need different teacher licensing for every state?


Every state has its own licensing requirements for teachers. Some states also allow for license reciprocity, meaning that if you have a teaching license from one state, you can transfer it fairly easily to another state and start teaching there. My state, Iowa, is not one of those states. In fact, the Iowa Board of Educational Examiners states quite clearly in its Licensure Handbook that

No, Iowa does not have reciprocity with any state. All individuals applying for licensure in Iowa must meet Iowa requirements. An evaluation is done to ensure that the coursework completed by the applicant meets Iowa’s minimum requirements. In most cases, applicants who have completed a teacher preparation program through a regionally-accredited college or university, received college credits, and completed either a student teaching or internship, may be eligible for Iowa licensure.

As many educators and schools can attest, the difficulty of transferring a teaching license (and, perhaps more importantly, retirement benefits) from one state to another can be a significant inhibitor to teacher mobility across state lines, recruitment of teaching talent from outside the state’s borders, and offering high-quality online learning opportunities to students that are facilitated by fantastic educators in other locations. You’re an excellent teacher from Montana that wants to move to Des Moines to work with students with special needs? Fill out all of this paperwork, pay us a big fee, and maybe you’ll be eligible. There’s a phenomenal physics teacher from Vermont whom you’d like to recruit to Cedar Rapids to work with urban high school kids? We’ll make her jump through a bunch of hoops. There’s an incredible online AP American History course taught by an awesome teacher in Delaware? Sorry, but if he doesn’t have an Iowa license, we’re skeptical.

This problem is not relegated to just Iowa, of course. Every state has an often-bewildering patchwork of rules, paperwork, processing fees, timelines, coursework demands, certification exam requirements, and other barriers to recognizing and utilizing out-of-state teacher excellence. This quote from a teacher in Kansas pretty much sums it up:

I graduated summa [cum laude], have three Master’s [degrees], and have scored perfect scores on four different Praxis tests. Shouldn’t I be able to teach in any state? [Teachers on the Move, p. 31]

Do we really need different teacher licensing for every state? Is the job of being a kindergarten teacher or special education teacher or high school math teacher or middle school physical education teacher in Iowa that much different than in Idaho or Arkansas? Couldn’t we come up with some sort of national teacher licensing scheme, accompanied by some short professional development experiences that got people up to speed on whatever state-specific regulations or professional knowledge they needed? Of course we could.

Many state teacher licensing rules exemplify legacy policies, structures, and mindsets that were created at a time when geography was a greater limitation. Today workers are much more mobile, workforce pools are global rather than just local, and we have the ability to share organizational information (and teach) across distance at the speed of light. Our teacher credentialing mechanisms have not kept up with our present reality. As such, they often inhibit the flexibility, adaptability, and nimbleness that we need our school systems to possess in these rapidly-changing times.

[Guiding Question: As we move toward more cognitively-complex, technology-suffused learning environments, what individual and societal mindsets – and local, state, and federal policy supports and/or barriers – need reconsideration?]

Image credit: Bigstock, 3d rendering of a map of USA

When it comes to educators and technology…

Part 1

… we have to answer the ‘why should we?’ before we answer the ‘how do we?’

Part 2

… if we’re struggling to meaningfully incorporate replicative technologies, what chance do we have of meaningfully incorporating transformative technologies?

Rethinking expenditures and policy priorities

The National Association of Science Teachers reports that we currently have approximately 180,000 science teachers in middle schools and high schools. We could replace all of them (which I hasten to add is not necessary) and give their successors full 4-year scholarships as science majors to the State University of New York (where in-state tuition and fees run about $7,000 per year) for less than half the cost of a single $11 billion Nimitz Class aircraft carrier. With the money left over, we could buy new inquiry-based science curricula for every elementary and middle school, train all existing elementary school teachers on the new Next Generation Science Standards, and provide high-quality professional development for every math teacher in the country.

Harold Levy via

Connected Educator Month launches today


August 2012 is officially Connected Educator Month here in the U.S. Today is the first of the month and there are a variety of launch events occurring, including multiple keynotes, webinars, online chats, and panel discussions. My session today is titled Connected Education and Peer Professional Development. The people who are way smarter than me who also will be participating in that session are Howard Rheingold, Tom Whitby, Judi Fusco, and Steve Hargadon. Check out the entire day’s schedule and see what other enticing events lie in store for the rest of the month. Be sure to also explore the blog, book clubpublications area, and online communities. Hope you’ll join us and maybe even get involved yourself!

1,133 educational leaders to kickstart your Twitter feed


Got an administrator in your school or district who’s interested in Twitter but doesn’t know whom to follow? Interested in connecting online with more administrators yourself? Get started with these 1,133 educational leaders on Twitter! [UPDATE: Now up to over 2,000 leaders!]

I’ll keep adding to this collection. Special thanks to Patrick Larkin, George Couros, Lyn Hilt, Chris Lehmann, Dan Frazier, and others for helping me expand my existing list. If you’re maintaining a Twitter list of P-12 educational administrators that I should know about, or would like to chat about creative ways to use these lists, get in touch!

[Continuing what I hope will be a months-long wave of resources for school leaders and the programs that prepare them…]

Focusing on superintendents: 5 technology leadership articles from AASA

AASA logo

Kicking off what I hope is an awesome, seemingly-endless month of resources for school leaders and the programs that prepare them, today I thought I’d share 5 technology leadership articles from AASA’s School Administrator magazine. All 5 focus on superintendents and feature either my thinking or my research.

  1. Blocking the future (May 2008). Superintendents may not have all the answers but they should at least have the right mindset. Are your leaders’ primary orientations toward enabling or blocking? 
  2. Rethinking technology restrictions in school (April 2012). Prohibition (i.e., overly-restrictive technology filtering and blocking) doesn’t work, whether for alcohol or school technology. It’s also inconsistent with how administrators approach non-technology-related school discipline issues.
  3. Responsibility for asking the right questions (November 2007). Superintendents may not be technology-savvy themselves, but that doesn’t mean they can’t ask better questions.
  4. The most important tool you probably don’t know (September 2011). RSS readers can be incredibly powerful tools for superintendents’ professional and personal learning.
  5. Online credentials: A state of wariness (September 2010). More teachers are getting their principal credentials from online Educational Leadership programs. But are they able to get jobs? This article highlights some of my research and was authored by my primary research partner and CASTLE Co-Director, Dr. Jayson Richardson.

Happy reading!

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