5 myths vs. facts: Breakthrough leadership in the digital age

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    Breakthrough Leadership in the Digital Age: Using Learning Science to Reboot Schooling
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  • There's a lot of myths out there about #DigLN. Check out @AEI's TOP 5. #DigLeadership

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  • Today's kids are different because they are digital natives. Total myth.

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  • Another #DigLeadership myth? We can bet on the next gen of tech to boost student achievement.

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Today's kids are different because they are digital natives.


Today's kids come to class with certain skills stored in long-term memory (such as a dazzling ability to type on teeny keyboards) that differ from those of their parents 35 years ago. But the teaching and learning challenge is the same: determining how to help students master new knowledge, concepts, and skills. Regardless of whether students are adept with today's technology, mastery still requires well-structured information, demonstrations, deliberate practice, prompt feedback, and motivational support.



More technology yields more learning.


Sixty years ago, an extra 100 ballpoint pens did not mean that students learned more. Today, giving each student a device such as an iPad does not necessarily mean he or she will learn more—this is simply a platform which can enable good learning solutions as well as terrible ones. What matters more than quantity is whether technology is used intentionally and strategically to support the seven elements of learning: outcomes, assessments, practice and feedback, demonstrations, information, overviews, and motivation.



Adding technology is "anti-teacher."


Technology is not anti-teacher or pro-teacher any more than equipping a doctor's office with an X-ray is anti-doctor. Technology makes it possible to automate routine tasks, for professionals to spend less time on administrative trivia, and to provide new supports and tools. Its biggest impact is in magnifying and extending the impact of terrific teaching: technology can liberate talent from rote and unproductive tasks.



Virtual schools are problematically different from brick-and-mortar schools.


There's no reason to assume that a virtual school is inherently any worse than a brick-and-mortar school. Virtual schools simply pose different constraints and opportunities. A given student may suffer without traditional interaction with peers or in-person time with a teacher whereas another student may benefit from more customization, a greater variety of course options, and the chance to move at his or her own pace.



We can bet on the next generation of technology to boost student achievement.


There is no particular reason that a student's learning will improve merely because cool, new devices emerge. New and improved versions of technology will only help if leaders and educators know how to properly utilize current technology; otherwise it is a mistake to put too much faith in the miraculous power of tomorrow's gadgets.


"Breakthrough Leadership in a Digital Age: Using Learning Science to Reboot Schooling"

by Frederick M. Hess and Bror Saxberg
October 2013
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About the Author


Frederick M.
  • An educator, political scientist and author, Frederick M. Hess studies K-12 and higher education issues. His books include "Cage-Busting Leadership," "Breakthrough Leadership in the Digital Age," "The Same Thing Over and Over," "Education Unbound," "Common Sense School Reform," "Revolution at the Margins," and "Spinning Wheels." He is also the author of the popular Education Week blog, "Rick Hess Straight Up." Hess's work has appeared in scholarly and popular outlets such as Teachers College Record, Harvard Education Review, Social Science Quarterly, Urban Affairs Review, American Politics Quarterly, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Phi Delta Kappan, Educational Leadership, U.S. News & World Report, National Affairs, the Washington Post, the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic and National Review. He has edited widely cited volumes on the Common Core, the role of for-profits in education, education philanthropy, school costs and productivity, the impact of education research, and No Child Left Behind.  Hess serves as executive editor of Education Next, as lead faculty member for the Rice Education Entrepreneurship Program, and on the review boards for the Broad Prize in Urban Education and the Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools. He also serves on the boards of directors of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers and 4.0 SCHOOLS. A former high school social studies teacher, he teaches or has taught at the University of Virginia, the University of Pennsylvania, Georgetown University, Rice University and Harvard University. He holds an M.A. and Ph.D. in Government, as well as an M.Ed. in Teaching and Curriculum, from Harvard University.

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