Atul Gawande, surgeon and well-known author, tells a story in his book, The Checklist Manifesto, about how the famed World War II B-17 bomber almost ended up never flying. It crashed on its maiden flight, killing two crew persons–including a highly experienced pilot. There were no mechanical issues. It turned out that the four engines on the plane had made it so complicated that the pilot could not hold all of his training in memory and he forgot to release the elevator controls before takeoff. It was too much airplane for even the most well-trained person to fly.
It’s likely that education is facing its own B-17 moment, where even the most talented and experienced teachers struggle to perform all the various demands and tasks they must accomplish and lead each day. Our country’s efforts to improve quality of teachers are critical. But, if we want to improve the quality of teaching, we also need to make the job more manageable.
In a new column for Education Next’s summer issue, I write about emerging lesson plan sharing web sites and tools that are helping to strengthen existing real-world collaboration and professional support among teachers. And, while there’s much more to teaching than great lesson plans, lightening the load and offering tools for teachers to improve their practice is part of the solution to helping teachers excel in an exceedingly difficult job.
N.B. I discuss some of these technologies in this new video.
– Bill Tucker