To the Editor:
Amazon recently followed its competitors Apple, Google, and others into the education technology space with the launch of its Inspire platform, an open education resource (“Will Amazon Change the Way Teachers Find Lesson Plans?”). But, so far, there is little evidence that such online portals delivering mountains of lesson materials have done much to improve teachers’ instruction.
Most do spend a lot of time looking for classroom lesson materials. In a recent RAND Corp. study, my colleagues and I found that almost all mathematics and English/language arts teachers select or develop their own instructional materials for classroom lessons, and almost half reported spending four hours a week or more doing so. According to the study, almost 90 percent of elementary teachers and half of secondary teachers seek out instructional materials from online sources, including both targeted sites like TeachersPayTeachers.com and more general-interest ones, such as Pinterest.
Indeed, teachers can and should have the freedom to select and develop at least some of their own instructional resources.
To improve their instruction, teachers need high-quality instructional materials that are organized into coherent units, and lessons that are sequenced and include material that meets the needs of both struggling students and more advanced students over time and through a logical progression of skills.
Teachers also need to understand how those materials align with state and district standards and assessment requirements. State and local officials could help with this step by rigorously evaluating materials from a number of online sources and using what is available to build coherent curricula for teachers that align with state standards and assessments.
Policymakers and educators should be seeking ways for educational technology to add coherence to teachers’ worlds, instead of just more information.
A version of this article appeared in the July 20, 2016 edition of Education Week as Open-Access Ed Tech Should Be Aligned to State Standards