education & tech

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Education + Tech

Education & Tech, was created to build hope that education based on social technologies, can transform the new century, and enable abundance not only spiritually but economically. Milton Ramirez, Ed.D. - @tonnet is the founder & editor. He is a teacher, tech blogger, writes on education, and hails this blog from Union, NJ. For further questions, tips or concerns please e-mail him to:miltonramirez [at] educationandtech [dot] com

Teacher + Scholar

If you are a regular to Blog Education & Tech, you shall remember that I am a blogger and I'd written a post about education almost everyday since 2003. Education & Tech provides you with education news, expert tech advice, classroom management ideas, and social media tools for educators, administrators, parents and k-12 students.

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Education Reform and its Implication to Tenured Teachers

Guest Post by Brittany Lyons*

Teachers across America are losing their tenure—at least, in the traditional sense. For years, the term applied to educators whose seniority essentially made them insusceptible to lay-offs. However, several states are tossing out the old ways in exchange for a new tenure system determined by overall classroom performance, rather than years spent at a single institution.

According to one of the resources for top online PhD programs, tenure as Americans knew it had been around since the early 20th century. In addition, statistics from the Center for American Progress indicate that, until very recently, the majority of states (33) granted tenure after three years at the same school. The 17 others awarded tenure at various intervals between the first and fifth year. Notably, every state had a system in place, and virtually all of them automatically awarded tenure when the benchmark year was reached.

Now, a handful of states are leading the charge for tenure reform. Most proponents argue that the old tenure system is antiquated, and allows ineffective teachers (or worse) access to the nation’s children. Florida has pursued the issue most aggressively, essentially nullifying all potential tenure opportunities for new teachers and laying out a plan to dismiss any teacher with multiple poor evaluations. Other states, such as Colorado and Nevada, also support the practice of laying off teachers with mediocre ratings, while Rhode Island allows up to two years of poor performance before dismissal is required. In all, 11 states now mandate school districts to consider job performance when deciding which teachers to retain the following year, and about half of all states grade educators on classroom effectiveness.

Last month, The Huffington Post reported that teacher unions nationwide began to fight the new changes. Opponents argue these reforms unnecessarily target older teachers by denying them “due process.” However, many experts believe the recent shift is merely an initial step toward complete reconstruction. “Tenure laws will be under assault for many years to come," said Marjorie Murphy, a history professor at Swarthmore College who penned a book about the teacher labor movement titled Blackboard Unions: The Aft and the Nea, 1900-1980.

Many believe the legislative changes are a reaction to soaring rates of school attendance in the United States. As Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a proponent of the reforms, told NPR, many urban school districts face large-scale issues in the face of crowded classrooms. "I believe this issue of education is the democracy issue of our time, the economic issue of our time and the civil rights issue of our time when you look at the achievement gap," he said. "And you look at the fact that in urban schools, you have a 50 percent dropout rate. And 80 percent of the kids are scoring at the bottom 20 percentile. We should be working together."

The Obama Administration has made a major push for charter schools—but these privately managed learning institutions also play a key role in the tenure debate. As they announce plans to strip teachers of tenure rights, states like Florida and New Jersey are awarding grant monies to developers whose charter schools have proven to be successful. Since they are independently owned, these establishments base their teacher contracts and subsequent extensions on overall classroom performance, not seniority.

To appease critics, Deseret News reports that several organizations that favor the new tenure system are creating complex models that eliminate the “black and white” appearance of the reforms. The Gates Foundation, for example, suggests a "value-added model" that establishes a baseline level for each student at the outset of each school year. This way, teacher scores are based on annual progress, not overall achievement.

How remaining states choose to address the issue and reform traditional tenure will play out in the coming months. Many believe that effective education for children should take ultimate precedence in this debate. As many legislators have seen, however, several factors are critical to the development of a performance- based teacher merit system—and all of them lie at the heart of this complex debate.

(*) Brittany Lyons aspires to be a psychology professor, but decided to take some time off from grad school to help people learn to navigate the academic lifestyle. She currently lives in Spokane, Washington, where she spends her time reading science fiction and walking her dog.

Distance Learning - The Road to Riches

How far would you take yourself or your kids for receiving the best education of its kinds? Well, the answer in the present generation is likely to be chorused with not much far, as today, education is available at your fingertips. Are you surprised? Well, don’t be; the advancement of technology and the dominance of Internet in global living have allowed individuals to embrace the shift in educational approach that came forward in the name of online education. Yes indeed, distance education within a decade took little steps forward to move up to the digital world making education easily accessible for all.

The Journey so Far

Education during the previous years was strictly confined within the traditional setting of a four-walled classroom that came alive with the hustle and bustle of the students and loud voice of the teacher from the pedestal. Distance learning, introduced during the 70’s though arrived with many promises, failed to live up to the expectation given to the strict dominance of the traditional learning mode and the means of delivering knowledge and sharing content via postal service.

It was only during the 90’s that distance learning received the long-due thrust in the hands of technological advancements and dominance of Internet technology. The concept of delivering knowledge anytime and anywhere without the barriers of time, distance, and geographical boundaries spelled the magic for the learning mode that was defined as comfortable and flexible. Learning via distance holding onto the support of tech-tools soon became a favorite with learners worldwide, as it offered them the opportunity to learn and earn simultaneously.

Distance Learning and the Tech-Advancements

The fact that distance learning grew hands in hands with technological advancements is undeniable. After all, the notion that learning can be accomplished at your own home via mouse clicks took the world of education to unprecedented heights. Integration of technology in education has indeed made it possible to transpire a physical classroom setting in the virtual world making face –to face interaction possible via webcams and communication easier via online chat forums and discussion boards.

Presentations and problem solving can also be achieved through video and audio conferencing, while the huge domain of e-library replaces the traditional library setting conveniently. Additionally, submission of assignments, offering feedback, and taking on students’ assessment in the present age can easily be achieved via learning management systems or software. The trick of distance learning lies in the fact that students can learn at their own pace and learning is accessible to them, as per their needs and interest.

Learning is no more confined within a convention; rather it has spread its wings unfolding new opportunities for the learners allowing a better educational environment.

This is a guest post contributed by Lucia Smith. For more information about Distance Learning, she recommends:

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