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My Core Beliefs: Why I Stay in Education and Why I Focus on Education Technology

My superintendent gave me homework a few weeks ago- she asked me to consider what my “core beliefs” about education are, and why I continue to work in public education. Maybe I miss having homework (haha), but I decided to write down my thoughts.

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I work in public education because I am passionate about the belief that every student deserves a quality, free education, and that opportunity shouldn’t be dependent on the family a child was born into.

I know that this reason is why many people work in public education. I also know that these beliefs can become clouded when we stay at school late every night, when we take home work every weekend, and when we feel like we are constantly fighting what feels like an uphill battle. Teacher satisfaction is at a 25-year low. Budgets are getting slashed, class sizes are increasing, and we watch other countries focus on professionalization while we see many media outlets in our own country blaming teachers for a “failing” system. It is a well-known fact that half of all teachers leave the profession within the first seven years– and the defeat many teachers are feeling is becoming more vocal. Now, more than ever, we need to know what motivates us to be in education- and what our core beliefs about education really are.

Even though I’m no longer a teacher, I don’t think my core beliefs have changed- last year, I still would have said the same three things. My core beliefs are:

  1. There is nothing more important to student achievement than the quality of a classroom teacher.
  2. The most important thing an educator can teach a student is HOW to learn.
  3. Effective practice is nurtured by collaboration and teamwork.

What has changed this year is my focus. Instead of focusing on students, I am now focused on teachers- and more specifically, education technology.

Here is why I am choosing to focus my core beliefs on education technology:



#1- There is nothing more important to student achievement than the quality of a classroom teacher.

I’m choosing to focus on education technology, because I believe that right now, more than ever, our teachers need support. We can’t afford to keep losing effective teachers to burnout, and the frustation and exhaustion teachers are feeling is growing more and more prevalent. Our teachers shouldn’t have to go home with stacks of ungraded quizzes every night when they can use a tool that will grade the quizzes for them. They shouldn’t have to manually shuffle resources and lesson plans when there are more efficient ways to communicate them. We shouldn’t look at technology as a replacement for effective teaching; we should look at it as a tool to help us be more efficient with what we are already trying to accomplish. We continuously talk about the future of learning; but what we aren’t communicating is HOW to make this happen. We scaffold all of our instruction for our students- how do we scaffold this shift for our teachers?

Over and over, we read articles that talk about “innovation” and “student engagement” related to implementing technology into the curriculum. I’ve argued this before- technology is not pedagogy. Also, personalizing learning is nothing new- we have been trying to personalize learning forever, and our understanding of pedagogy has been developed and refined for decades. Required reading: John Hattie’s Visible Learning: A Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to AchievementMore than fifteen years of evidence-based research went into this study about what actually works in schools to improve learning. Replacing an effective lesson with ineffective use of technology should be a crime, and our focus needs to be on best practices of teaching and learning. Instead of trying to find fifty different ways to awkwardly shove an iPad app or movie-making project into a unit, we need to ask ourselves these questions: “Is this the best way to teach this skill/concept?” -and- “Is there a more efficient or effective way to do it?”.

#2- The most important thing an educator can teach a student is HOW to learn.

I had a lot of fantastic teachers, but two of the best teachers I had were my parents. They LOVE learning- and they taught me that knowledge is everywhere. When I read all of the research on “first-generation” college students (yes, I’m a first-gen), one of my biggest frustrations is the statement that previous generations didn’t value education- and the underlying implication that a formalized education = knowledge. I couldn’t even begin to guess the number of hours that my parents, siblings, and friends, (“educated” or not), spend every week researching topics and learning new skills.

I’m going to be completely transparent for a second- and I know what I am about to state might be unpopular. I have always viewed a degree as little more than a piece of paper. Here’s the problem with this mindset: I am in education. More than most people, I should believe in the power of a formal education. However, when I look at the people who I have the most respect for, I realize that my respect is founded on those individuals’ application of knowledge rather than any “formal” acquisition of knowledge itself. This is compounded by the fact that information is now everywhere– acquiring and applying knowledge is no longer limited to individuals born into a certain socioeconomic status. We now have the entire documented knowledge of the collective world at our fingertips, and we have companies who have built their entire existence around making that information “universally accessible and useful”.

I’m choosing to focus on education technology, because I believe that the Internet has changed the way we access information. Before, educators and schools were the “gatekeepers of knowledge”- now, knowledge is everywhere. If our focus is truly teaching students how to learn, providing equitable access and teaching students how to navigate and apply that information has to be the top priority in everything we do. As information becomes even more universally accessible, I wonder if the assumptions we have about who we consider “educated” and “uneducated” will evolve. 

#3- Effective practice is nurtured by collaboration and teamwork.

We are constantly telling teachers and students about the power of collaboration, but how often do go into our offices / classrooms, shut our doors, and create the exact same content as the educator twenty miles down the road? For the last few months, I have been fortunate to work with about thirty other Google Apps Certified Trainers, technology integrators, and classroom teachers all over the nation on a technology integration MOOC (Massive Open Online Course). The shared vision we have for this project is to strategically support our teachers in increasing efficiency / effectiveness through the use of technology. By working together, we were able to target best practices in our own classrooms / districts, and are now creating a resource that all of our teachers will be able to use.



This collaboration has also cultivated partnerships and raised discussion on important issues- such as how we deliver professional development to our teachers. We decided that lecture-based models of PD weren’t working… so we worked together to throw a challenge-based workshop supported with blended learning opportunities. The feedback from that workshop was the best feedback I’ve ever gotten on any workshop- and 43% of survey respondents commented that as a result, they were now more interested in creating a blended learning environment in their own classrooms (other options were ‘not more or less’, ‘less’, or ‘other’). Another recent discussion we had was about crediting teachers for professional development- if we place all of our content online, does an educator who spends three hour sitting in a workshop deserve more credit than an educator who spends three hours working on the course at home (or an educator who already has the skills)? We say “no”- but that raises issues about the current standards of teacher compensation.

I’m choosing to focus on education technology, because I’m fascinated by a career that is still largely undefined. The job of a “tech integrator” (or whatever it is called in each district) is new- and is often a combination of “tech coach” / “library media specialist” / “technician” / “pedagogical coach” / etcetera. There are two things that fascinate me about this position: the open possibilities of the job, as well as the concept of the job itself. We have had technology forever (seriously, a pencil is technically “technology”)- so to have a new position dedicated entirely to integrating technology means that a serious transformation has occurred. Think about how much the business world has changed in the last twenty years, and imagine how much the Internet will eventually change education. We can now collaborate with other individuals all over the world- and we can provide even greater opportunities for our learners by working together. What will that mean for how we define ourselves as educators, and what will that mean for the future of education?


I am choosing to focus my core beliefs on education technology because our current state of technology is enabling people to connect, collaborate, and create in ways that we could only dream of before. This is a time where complete strangers will donate supplies to classroomswhere top Universities will offer their coursework for freewhere one of most visited websites on the Internet is a free encyclopedia, and where complete strangers will fund the creation of schools in developing countries.

Yes, this is a stressful time to be in education- but I also believe that this is the best time to be in education. As long as we can provide equitable access to the Internet, every student IS able to receive a quality, free education- and opportunity will not be dependent on the family a child is born into.

So- why are you still in education? What are your core beliefs, and how do you focus them?


17 Comments

  • Kate

    March 22, 2013

    Krista- This is an excellent posting and I am also a first-year instructional technology leader for my district.

    What was the title of the MOOC that you participated in? I would be interested in getting my team involved because we are also looking for ways to help teachers with this mind shift toward connecting, collaborating and creating meaningful learning opportunities for students. A shift away from focus solely on devices and technology as a means to an end. I’ve also “flipped” the district PD and have gotten great feedback so far.

    Reply
    • Krista Moroder

      March 22, 2013

      Thanks! Our MOOC is called the “Ed Tech Challenge”… and I love that you called it a “mind shift” – because that is *exactly* why we wanted to create a MOOC together. I can’t think of anything that encapsulates that transformation towards collaboration/connectivity more than an open educational resource… and I want to be able to provide my teachers with a global community of knowledge.

      We actually just restructured a good portion of the framework the last two days, so we’re looking for a few more people to get involved with the creation of it. We’re doing our best to tie it to the NETS-T, and our plan is to apply for the ISTE Seal of Alignment when we are finished (which will be an interesting process since we are going to have difficulty justifying our assessment capabilities in a MOOC). Send me an email if you’d like to get involved- we especially need support in our expanded PLN and PBL focused units. krista@edtechcoaching.org

      Reply
  • Rita Rahima

    March 6, 2014

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    Reply
  • Louis Common

    March 10, 2014

    Our district recently went one to one with iPads. I’m not sure this was necessary but they didn’t ask me. I to firmly believe that technology isn’t pedagogy. Finding good uses for these and other devices in support of our teaching objectives is why I’m taking this MOOC-EDU

    Reply
  • Jason Tetreault

    March 11, 2014

    I am still in education because I still want to help my adult students reach their goals and dreams.
    Before me stand the myriad forms of new technology, many of which seem daunting/overwhelming to me. My desire to be one of my students’ resources for getting where they need to get pushes me to embrace that which I don’t necessarily know or feel comfortable with. It’s personal as well. As a human being on planet Earth, I certainly don’t want to be left out of what’s happening in the world (it would be like standing on the side of a highway all day and not knowing what a car was, or how to use it).

    Reply
    • Krista Moroder

      March 11, 2014

      +1 – “My desire to be one of my students’ resources for getting where they need to get pushes me to embrace that which I don’t necessarily know or feel comfortable with.”

      That’s a really powerful perspective- thank you for sharing!

      Reply
  • Prue's puddle

    March 12, 2014

    One of my core values is that it is the responsibility of the educated to share their knowledge and I dream that education should be free and accessible to everyone. Technology is allowing that to dream is an avenue to do just that. I was lucky enough to enter the world of work in the early 70’s running mainframe computers. I grew up with computers, and as the market changed, I changed with it. Educationally my passion is cultural anthropology, making a living was another thing. The junior college I graduated from then ultimately worked for has been a leader in the distance-learning field. I have a FFA in Digital Media, and a MS in Family Studies. Although they are disparate they mesh beautifully in understanding students learning styles, motivations and struggles in learning. I love being a geek and I love teaching and learning.

    Reply
  • Mr.Armstrong

    March 14, 2014

    I am in education because I love going to school and working with my kids everyday. I strongly believe that technology has to be implemented correctly ( not kids sitting in front of comp). I am taking the course to help some hesitant teachers use technology as a part of their lessons.

    Reply
  • Elaine White

    March 17, 2014

    My district is currently struggling with a 1:1 initiative. One of the problems has been putting computers in the hands of children before teachers had a good understanding of how to take a good lesson and make it greater through the integration of technology.
    I stay in education because I love seeing children learn need information and skills.I feel that I have been” in” education all my life because like Krista my parents( who had no formal education) were great teachers at home.I started teaching in 1965 and I have stayed in the profession 48 wonderful years!!!!! I sometimes feel like a dinosaur and soooo behind some of the new tech born,but I refuse to be left out of such an exciting movement in education!

    Reply
  • Elaine White

    March 17, 2014

    This comment has been removed by the author.

    Reply
  • Michael Adkins

    March 17, 2014

    Understanding each teacher (differentiation) as we do with our students is important to the how of incorporating technology into a classroom. Providing the technology does not guarantee enhancement of the lesson or a higher level of thinking or learning. This is the biggest challenge as I see it…creating the lesson plan is the easy part!

    Reply
  • Jacqueline Fewin

    March 25, 2014

    I stay in education because I love learning and want to help instill that passion into students, teachers, and staff. Education is most successful with quality relationships and technology is a tool that can help facilitate these. The operator of the tool is the most powerful part and I believe part of my job is to model proper operation and motivate others to use the tool appropriately.

    Reply
  • Patricia Luria

    September 15, 2014

    I stay in education because I want to help my students become productive adults who live good, authentic lives. I am from a small rural school, but my district has made a commitment to technology. We have smart boards in every classroom, ELMOs in many classrooms, and a state of the art distance learning room. What we need to embrace now is change. Having the technology is great, but as educators, we need to use it effectively. I am committed to learning all I can, so that I can use technology effectively in my classroom. I also want to be able to share what I learn with my colleagues.

    Reply
  • AD

    September 20, 2014

    I am really interested in how to use techonology in the classroom to help get grading done, student learning and staff collaboration. I am also interested in to see how to use grants, which grants, and what schools purchased. Was it worth the purchase?

    Reply
  • K Tripp

    September 20, 2014

    In considering these questions myself, I am a part of public education for students to prepare for their future, but I know a major key for this is ensuring educators are ready to facilitate this type of learning. The success I feel in helping a teacher embrace 21st century education learning strategies means I have helped influence each students she works with. This satisfaction helps me to know I am making a difference in public education.

    Reply
  • Brian Pahl

    September 23, 2014

    I am in education because I believe it saved me. School was a place I felt capable, where I felt empowered, and where I was challenged and supported. I strive to create a classroom and to be a teacher that has the same impact on my students. I believe that teaching students to be strong, independent thinkers is the greatest gift we can give them.

    I am out of the classroom this year as a tech integration TOSA (teacher on special assignment), and it’s been pretty tough. I think for teachers to fully embrace and integrate technology, they need a lot of PD and support. We have a big focus on math and writing, so tech is on the back burner as far as PD is concerned. Luckily, I can get into buildings and support folks who are interested in their classrooms during the day. I am also building a team who will help design a tech integration plan which will include PD as a large focus. At any rate, it’s hard being away from students.

    I am also really interested in the MOOC you mention. My e-mail is brian.pahl@bellinghamschools.org.

    Reply
  • Melissa

    September 26, 2014

    I have been in education for over 20 years. I love learning and I love teaching. I specifically love learning from my students. My school made a big switch from Windows to Mac this summer. I pulled all the PCs out of the classrooms and replaced them with iPads and laptops. It is exciting times and most importantly a wonderful opportunity to learn and grow. The teachers need a lot of support in the transition and that means coaching. Collaboration and teamwork are the foundation of our new adventure.

    Reply

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