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Schools been putting computers and other forms of technology in classrooms for decades, but walk into most American classrooms and often are they sit unused with out-of-date software.  Even in schools that have very good computer-to-student ratios there is no guarantee that the teachers are adequately prepared to change the way they have been delivery instruction since the day they earned their teaching credentials.


Two recent sessions that I have had with middle and high school students provided very clear examples of the above.   I was asked to be part of a technology-integration advisory group for a local high school.  One afternoon we had a chance to have a lunch forum with a small group of students and their teachers.  The comments from the students drove home the key points.  Collectively the students all agreed that they were dismayed that they were not allowed to bring laptops to class; not even for the purpose of taking notes.  Granted there are concerns about having students use personal computers and connecting them to a school network; however in this case, the students merely wanted to use their laptops for note-taking purposes.  As one student stated, “…what I do in school is copying notes from the board.  When I get home, I transcribe them into a digital format so that I can actually use the information for learning purposes; seems rather unnecessary.”


In another example a student used his smart phone to illustrate the disconnect in how such technologies are being used for educational purposes.  With a bit of dramatic flair, the student took his device off of his belt and held it up asking the adults in the room what they saw.  To a person, all of the teachers stated that it was “a phone.”

“Precisely my point!” the student declared.  “You see a phone when in reality this is my computer.  This is my connection to information.”   He then went on to share how a teacher recently scolded him for “having his phone out in class” when in reality, he was using it to learn more about the topic that the teacher had been discussing in class because he was interested in the lesson.  In that moment, the student was left to feel that he again needed to leave technology at the classroom door.


A meeting I had with a group of 18 middle school students on a career day was equally telling.  I asked them the standard “what is your favorite class” question that seems to be a staple of such events.  The response I received ranged from P.E., band, web design/computer class, etc.  Not a single student responded with math, science, English, or social studies.  As I asked follow up questions it became apparent why the students identified the classes that they did.  Being actively engaged in the learning process is core to those courses.  P.E., band, and a computer class is not a passive experience.  They could not say this about their other classes.


Assigning blame will not serve us well.  While we can debate the reasons as why technology is not more fully integrated into traditional classrooms (lack of teacher professional development, administrative commitment, pre-service preparation, and yes, funding being a short list), we need to change this and soon.  The term “digital divide” is taking on meaning beyond the traditional reference to those who do not have access to technology.  There continues to be a growing divide that exists between our students of today and their use of technology in every aspect of their lives (including the desire for learning) and how technology is really being used in many classrooms. 


The use of technology to assess performance and individual needs; instruct students inspire their curiosity and creativity; to expand when and where learning takes place; and to engage parents can allow us to fundamentally change what “school” is – for the better.


These changes will not happen overnight, but there are steps that school leaders can take today:


  • Dramatically increase the technological component of teacher training. While pedagogy and subject matter expertise are important, teachers need training on how to use technology as part of their instruction.  Included in this training is not only how to operate hardware and technology devices; but training on how to teach with digital content and how maximize their communication with students and parents through available technologies. (


  • Establish expectations for the use of technology in your classrooms that goes well beyond merely using PowerPoint to deliver information.  Demand accountability.  Require that teachers identify in their lessons plans how technology is being used by them and their students.  Insist on evaluations that demonstrate teacher and student use of technology. 


  • Implement solutions that allow school and district leaders to have instant access to data that will help them run their schools more efficiently, identify and address specific problems, and to ensure that students are being appropriately assigned to the courses and instructors that they need and deserve. (

Back in September, we launched “Raise Your Hand” and asked for your ideas on the most important action to take in education today. We used an ideas marketplace, All Our Ideas, a platform developed by Matthew Salganik, a professor at Princeton University to help you compare 50 seed ideas and submit your own.


The response was overwhelming: over 27,000 votes, 325 ideas and participation from over 90 countries across the continents. Within 30 days, four of the original ideas from the public rose to the top five positions. See the full list here.


Clearly, education is a planetary issue that resonates deeply with all of you - as reflected in the unprecedented number of ideas uploaded.


While the five ideas were distinctly different, a couple of common themes emerged:


  1. Teach to think. Your votes showed us that teaching shouldn’t just be a transfer of information from teacher to student. Teaching should help students learn to think critically and develop a life-long appreciation of learning. Your votes also showed that students’ natural abilities should be both considered and built  upon.

  2. Access to education. You overwhelmingly supported education as a public good, and maintained the importance that all children, no matter what background, have the same access to quality education.


People talked about this ideas marketplace all over the place – over dinner, with friends, in study lounges, in parental seminars, in cafés, off line and on (Facebook, twitter and on blogs).


The beauty of the voting was the absence of a polling booth. As long as you had access to a computer, mobile phone, or even an iPad, you could contribute your thoughts on the most important idea in education.  We know. We demonstrated Raise Your Hand to hundreds of people in Paris at the Institutional Management in Higher Education general conferenceprior to the launch using an iPad and watched several of the participants go on to continue voting and contributing from their iPhones. Our statistics show that we had visits from iPads, iPhones, Blackberries and Androids. Our hope was to expand the potential to vote to developing countries where Internet is more readily available via mobile phones.


So thank you to those of you from Bangladesh, Kenya, Malta, Montenegro, Peru, Sri Lanka and the 86 other countries from which our voters “raised their hands”. Your 325 original ideas and 27,000+ votes will be heard by education ministers, OECD researchers, policy makers, and educationtoday readers around the world.  The ideas will be presented at the Education Policy Forum on 4 November, attended by world thought leaders and OECD education ministers. From there, we will collect video statements from ministers, practitioners, experts, deans and other education stakeholders providing their perspectives on the top ideas. We will also invite other organisations to “adopt an education action” and put it into practice in their schools, universities, communities and countries.


We hope you’ll act during the next phase! Do stay tuned to educationtoday for the next critical part you can play.



Related links

Performance reviews. We’ve all had them in some form in our life. A grade, a review from a boss, or even constructive feedback from a friend. The latest report on the school system in Mexico Improving School: Strategies for Action in Mexico is like a performance review “plus.” The report provides strategy to improve schools in Mexico along with 15 concrete recommendations to support progress. A roadmap to school success.

Why Mexico? An agreement between the OECD and the Government of Mexico represented by the Mexican Ministry of Education (Secretaría de Educación Pública, SEP) was established to support the design and implementation of education policy reforms to improve the quality and equity of the education system. The report, just released today, was developed with new OECD methodology to support education policy and exchange across countries.

The recommendations for Mexico’s system can serve as a model for reforms around the world since the report provides a framework on the conditions for success in across countries. The recommendations provide information on:

  • Improving school effectiveness through school management and leadership by setting national standards
  • School autonomy
  • Stable and adequate funding
  • Professional hiring and training procedures
    For every policy recommendation, the report reviews research and best practices in other countries including Canada and England.

Any traveler knows, a map isn’t useful unless someone follows it. One of the key successes of the report has been the tremendous involvement and engagement with stakeholders in Mexico and around the world. OECD staff working in Mexico and Paris worked extensively with key stakeholders to make sure that the report reflected what really happens on the ground. And it won’t just stop with the report release. A series of workshops have been designed to help policymakers, teachers, parents and even students develop the necessary knowledge to implement the recommendations for education reform in Mexico.


With every journey, it’s wise to have a plan. The newest report is a helpful reference for Mexico’s road to education reform. No compass needed.


For more about the  joint initiative of the OECD Directorate for Education and the Mexican Secretariat of Public Education, Secretaría de Educación Pública - SEP, aiming to improve the quality of education in Mexico, go to the Calidad Educativa/Quality Education website


See also the Spanish version of the book - Mejorar las escuelas: Estrategias para la acción en México

Improving Health and social cohesion-cover.jpg

The latest OECD report, Improving Health and Social Cohesion Through Education, demonstrates how education can play a significant role in promoting well-being and social progress. The best part: is that it can even be cost-effective!


In light of the OECD Health Ministerial held last week, this report on Improving Health and Social Cohesion Through Education reinforces the connection between education and health, and proves that it is especially relevant when it comes to promoting healthy lifestyles.



Review the Improving Health and Social Cohesion Through Education executive summary here.



One study, reported by the New York Times,, found that that for every extra year of education women had, the death rate for children under 5 dropped by almost 10 percent. The study also found that educated women tend to use health services more often and make better choices on hygiene, nutrition and parenting.


If you’re a cynic, you might wonder why we’d spend time examining the seemingly fuzzy idea of “social cohesion?” In the past decade there has gradually been a shift in how we think about and measure country growth. Many economists are now looking beyond the policies that make the economy grow (in terms of GDP), but also what increases a population’s well being, such as health, civic engagement and happiness. While most OECD countries might be a long way from Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness measure, many countries are taking a serious look at how we measure a country’s prosperity. In France, there is an effort to measure economic health and well being by the French government’s Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress.


Read more about the Social Outcomes of Learning.


Centre for Educational Research and Innovation (CERI):

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