Thanks to Michael Horn for letting us add onto his noteworthy post “Why digital learning will liberate teachers.” Here we want to second his point and add another: schools – and nations – that excel in the digital age will be those that use digital tools both to make teaching more manageable for the average teacher, and to give massively more students access to excellent teachers.
And not just in the obvious ways. Yes, directly through digital instruction. But also by freeing excellent teachers to reach more students in-person.
Today, only about 25 percent of U.S. classrooms have teachers whose students learn enough to close achievement gaps in a few years and make further progress like the world’s top students. Another 25 percent have lagging teachers whose students end up further behind. The rest have solid teachers – students on track stay on track, but students starting behind stay behind, and few get ahead. Overall, U.S. students end up pretty much where they started out in life, the antithesis of the American dream.
How could digital learning change this picture? One way is by helping solid teachers become more effective. As Michael notes, digital tools can free these teachers’ time to give students more personal attention and develop higher-order capabilities. Digital technology can also help diagnose students’ learning needs and suggest responsive instruction, thereby mimicking the differentiation that only excellent teachers deliver today.