00201 Teachers As Technology Workforce

“It’s all about the teachers and the students.” This has been the mantra of eSATS and eLearning since the beginning (early 1990’s). We  found a host of sources that stated the obvious, delivered strident imperatives and wound up with wishful thinking, but said nothing about strategy and implementation of systemic and systematic changes needed to make the system effective. We decided to do our own information gathering. We kicked off this learning process by holding our first focus group with Arizona Education Association. Over then next few years, we attended workshops and conferences, and had scores of discussions with learned folks, educators in the trenches and multiple Arizona leaders.

Five years ago we released our comprehensive K-12 education system redesign with a ten year pathway. Its core included all that is needed for the transformation of the legacy teaching profession with significant new skills and ongoing support to become the leading intellectually based profession of the 21st Century. Who would want to be a doctor, lawyer or engineer when they could seek the most richly enhanced and challenging profession of teacher.

One-to-one teaching time will dramatically increase the rewarding human relationships by automating teachers’ repetitive deskwork tasks and transforming from lecture to coaching/mentoring. With real time formative assessments and modern eLearning teaching systems, the highest levels of thinking and problem solving skills will be in continuous practice. Immersed in broadband-internet, the isolated classroom will be a globally connected classroom with ongoing peer interaction, peer-to-peer mentoring and expert support.

The past decade of consistent advocacy by a legion of eLearning aficionados and technological evolution, following Moore’s Law, has produced progress in broadband-Internet, digital curriculum and computer interfaces. But the progress in the teaching profession has been difficult to measure. We have thought long and hard on this issue, but as is usually the case, a creative reason and concept has only emerged in the heat of challenge.

Arizona Technology Council has a very effective Work Force and Education Committee that addresses issues for our technology industries: optics, aerospace, biotech, semiconductor, telecommunications, and many others. As a whole, these industries have thrived and are globally competitive because they are early adopters of the most innovative technology and have science and engineering colleges turning out industry savvy graduates. They also invest from $1000 to $3000 a year per person in maintaining the skills and knowledge of their information workforce.

In their 2010 planning committee meeting in December the leadership requested input on two types of initiatives for the coming year. One was for the most important ongoing programs that would move the ball forward on new but smaller opportunities to address. The other was for Grand Challenges that one was passionate about and would have a high effect factor for the benefit of the technology enterprise community. That’s when it hit me. We have been conceptualizing the guild of K-12 teachers as legacy teachers who would learn how to use technology to improve their craft. We needed to turn that 180 degrees for the 21st century.

The Grand Challenge is to envision teaching as the educated workforce within a technology industry. The State needs to recast its definition of critical workforces to include the teaching workforce. Our high tech industries need to recognize teachers, and their education, training and professional development needs as equivalent to the needs of the workforces of Boeing, Intel, Microsoft IBM, and Raytheon. Studies and forecasts from The Departments of Commerce and Labor need to include one more technology based industry – public K-12 education.

Let’s invest in this workforce because teachers are the foundation workforce of Arizona’s hope to be a competitive player in the 21st century’s high-tech economy.

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