Recession leading to innovations in education
Media reports show that joblessness is growing and that spending is down, but, remarkably, the economy should see a rebound in the second half of 2009. Some say that recovery is dependent on jobs, because spending will only go up when jobs are realized.
An interesting side effect of this recession’s unemployment has been the boost in people who are enrolling in teacher training courses. According to a recent Washington Post article, interest in teacher preparation programs geared toward job-changers is rising sharply and applications to a national retraining program based in 20 cities rose 30 percent this year.
This is good news for education, since almost two million teachers are expected to retire from public schools in the next decade. It should also be interesting to see what the effect of pulling teachers from corporate America will have on the system as a whole. They have to learn how to engage distracted and possibly bored students, according to the report, but they could also bring exciting change.
Putting experienced professionals who are used to working in technologically advanced situations could lead to great innovation and put new teaching methods on a fast track. Technologies like interactive blackboards have changed the way children learn and Kindle could be used to save a few pounds in a backpack.
Some classrooms have already revolutionized learning through video conferencing. Classrooms across the United States use it to take children in rural areas on virtual field trips, to unite classrooms and children in different parts of the world to offer exciting cultural insights and to bring experts into classrooms that otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to learn from them.
A great example is how Cooperating School Districts (CSD) of Greater St. Louis uses video conferencing to save money, share resources and create educational excellence for the 300,000+ students it serves. CSD is as a consortium of 65 school districts in the St. Louis metropolitan area, as well as four outlying counties and St. Louis City. It uses video conferencing technology for electronic field trips, collaborative projects across school districts and bringing authors or experts from cultural institutions into the classroom, as well as staff development and global connections.
With resources at a low not seen since the Great Depression, maximizing technology for education makes increasing sense. Upfront expenditure can create exponential reward, not only by saving a school money and time over years, but also by turning an ordinary classroom into an extraordinary learning environment.