When compared to other nations, the United States continues to struggle with education. While the country enjoys a high literacy rate and a proficiency in many different areas of knowledge, worldwide rankings have not been kind. One of the factors at play is the disparity in education between individual states. Acts aiming to reform education, such as No Child Left Behind, gave states the choice to determine what was taught, when it was taught, and to define educational mastery. This resulted in individual states having different educational standards, creating a significant disparity in the preparedness and knowledge base of our future workforce.
It’s that disparity that led a vast coalition of councils and associations, such as the National Governors Association (NGA) and the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), to develop Common Core State Standards, which were designed to create universal, real-world expectations across all states. There would now be a common standard for educational achievement nationwide.
Common Core State Standards have the potential to level the playing field by helping students develop a deeper understanding of their study materials. Delving deeper means that fewer topics can be covered, but that’s precisely the point. The “Career and College Ready” approach encourages younger students to be more hands-on and focused on what will actually come in handy in the real world, trimming any unnecessary fat.
A recent report by the National School Boards Association shows that the success of Common Core standards is highly contingent on one big factor: effective teacher professional development.
It’s important to keep teachers informed and ahead of the curve, and that’s exactly what Washoe County’s (Nevada) Aaron Grossman has been able to accomplish. Mr. Grossman, along with his team, “are helping teachers carry out the common core in their classrooms by finding and providing them with resources and original sources, and then gathering and synthesizing teacher feedback as they test out new lessons and curricular materials in their own classrooms.” The special initiative has been called the Washoe Core Task Project.
As Washoe County has proven, successful common core implementation requires that teachers get acquainted with new teaching methods, which can cost plenty of money and time; two increasingly scarce resources in today’s educational system. If a teacher were to rely on traditional “workshop-style” training sessions to acquire new skills, he or she would require 20 separate sessions, on average. Since interacting with peer coaches and mentors is a crucial part of a teacher’s professional development, regular travel becomes a significant part of the equation, which again puts a big strain on budgets.
Fortunately, schools can tap into video teleconferencing (VTC) in order to bypass many of the costs associated with training staff. Rather than spending countless dollars on travel expenses, teachers can use real time video collaboration to connect with peers and mentors using a wide array of digital devices. Providing teachers with access to experts for continued professional development, regardless of geography and tight travel budgets, is as simple as implementing any other distance learning initiative.
As additional schools have begun to implement Common Core Standards, personalized learning environments have also become more widespread. Also referred to as a “flipped classroom” or “flipped learning environment,” this method allows students to learn at their own pace, and to connect with their teacher for one-on-one time. Missing a lecture or struggling to grasp a specific chapter doesn’t have to mean “game over” for students; they can simply re-watch the lecture using any digital device and discuss the material with an instructor, fellow student, or in a group discussion.
Common Core requires that students be able to make connections, analyze information, compare and contrast, and create content that they can share with their peers. Video teleconferencing is essential, then, in helping students and teachers create valuable content that can be shared in a virtual library tailored to providing students with the tools they need to learn at their individual pace. Videos can be personalized and interactive, allowing students to collaborate and remain engaged.
In addition to recording and hosting educational videos for students to digest at their own pace, there are other online learning resources and tools that teachers can utilize that incorporate Common Core Standards. The increasingly popular Khan Academy, which was founded in 2006 with the goal of providing free, online world-class education for anyone, regardless of location, recently revealed new math resources tied to Common Core. According to observers, the materials, ”feature interactive high-tech user interfaces and sophisticated back-end software that adapts to individual learners,” and they represent a crucial step for the field of free, open education resources (OER).
Not only can Common Core State Standards help level the educational playing field in the nation, but it can push school systems to change the way they view professional development, as well as the traditional classroom. By using technology like VTC, students, teachers and mentors are no longer limited by geography or school budgets – only their imaginations.
To learn more about the role that VTC solutions can play in helping schools adopt Common Core State Standards, download the Common Core brochure by clicking HERE.