It’s an idea so simple and so transformational it’s stunning it hasn’t already been implemented nationally.
Here it is: film America’s greatest K-12 teachers delivering their lessons and put them online in a one-stop shop website for students, parents, and young teachers to watch and learn from for free.
Imagine the possibilities and benefits.
Every child, regardless of income, circumstance, or school district would now be able to watch and learn from American All-Star teachers—the “Michael Jordans of pedagogy”—delivering key lessons. Likewise, parents would be able to watch and learn so they can help reinforce concepts to their kids (if we’re honest, most of us could probably use a little brushing up on our cellular division and calculus to help our kids with their homework). Best of all, teachers in training would get to see best practices in motion, thereby shaving years off their learning curves.
Think of it as the popular TED.com for teaching. Or the excellent (but expensive) Great Courses mail-order video program.
At first, we could start with just the core concept lessons in each area of learning: fractions in math, osmosis in science, the Revolutionary War in history, the musical scale, etc.
The format for video teaching sessions could vary; some would have live student audiences, others standalone lectures. Experiment! Switch things up! Let creativity rule to spark new and innovative ideas and ways of approaching lessons and students.
Each year, there could be an All-Star educator competition to incentivize and reward excellence in teaching for those who develop new ways of making learning fun and effective.
Eventually, one could envision having an entire year’s worth of the greatest American teachers on film teaching every lesson for every day of the school year. The purpose wouldn’t be to “do away with teachers”; rather, it would be to give parents, students, and educators a way to “cement” core concepts and lessons by having a one-stop online resource to go to for learning throughout the year. Think of it as a sort of digital tutor that parents and students can turn to when they are struggling with a particular area of learning—and all for free.
Efforts like the brilliant and wonderful Khan Academy, which offers quick lessons online for free, are a quantum leap in the right direction. In their present form, however, Khan videos feature just black screens with writing and therefore don’t offer young teachers a way to see and model powerful classroom teaching practices.
And young teachers may be the ones who would benefit most. Those of us who have taught know that the teacher we were the first day we entered the classroom was not the teacher we were when we retired. As with most things, you learn what works and what doesn’t with time. By exposing beginning teachers to the “Michael Jordans” of teaching early in their careers, beginning teachers would be empowered to borrow best practices sooner and integrate them into their own unique styles, thereby accelerating the learning curve in public education.
How much would such a thing cost? That’s the best part. By harnessing the low-cost power of technology, we could create a virtual K-12 of American All-Star instruction for relative peanuts, especially when one considers that taxpayers spend a quarter million per classroom per year on public school education.
And what would we get for such a tiny technological investment? Excellence in teaching preserved and digitally archived for time immemorial.
Every child deserves access to excellent teaching.
The solution is just a mouse click away.