Fast Company

Gates Foundation Puts Whispers in Teachers' Ears With NFL-Inspired Tech

Teachers will get live in-ear feedback just like NFL coaches thanks to technology funded by the Gates Foundation.

Teachers-in-training will have their very own personal angel to discreetly coach them through new lesson plans, with the same ear-bud wiring that feeds live information to NFL coaches. Teach for America is hoping that private coaching will speed up the painstakingly slow process of teacher development, allowing teachers to get both tailored instruction and the experience of being at the head of the classroom, without risking a disaster for students.

"Once a teacher understands what it feels like to be successful, it takes root immediately," Monica Jordan, coordinator of teacher professional development in Memphis City Schools, told Education Week.

The experimental group of teachers is willing, if hesitant. "I thought, what if they say something in my ear and I lose my train of thought?" said algebra teacher Cynthia Law. "And then I thought, so what if I lose my train of thought, I'll figure it out," Law continued, confidently, "I'm not a play-it-safe person. I'm willing for my kids' sake to look foolish."

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation-funded technology is currently just used with an expert companion in a nearby room, but could easily be done from anywhere in the world.

Conceivably, the technology could allow even more exciting (and controversial) applications. For instance, Indian PhDs could one day be remote coaching AP calculus teachers, especially in cash-strapped schools forced to fill classes with unprepared teachers. This is especially likely since American educators have long wanted to use the successful math curricula of South Asian countries but lack the proper training.

Perhaps less controversial, the program could also bring expertise to isolated rural and underprivileged urban schools, with the help of President Obama's new universal broadband access initiative. No longer will students be penalized for being raised in an area that does not appeal to America's elite teaching graduates.

Live-feed instruction, if effectively executed, could bring personalized teacher development and the world's expertise to any classroom in the country.

Follow @fastcompany on Twitter. Follow author Gregory Ferenstein on Twitter or email him.

[Image: Flickr user Keith Allison]

Add New Comment

0 Comments