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Thomas Toughest on Teacher Colleges

In an opening keynote and panel discussion here in Washington at the Consortium for School Networking's annual conference, author and professor Douglas Thomas spoke on design flaws he sees in the conventional school system.

But Thomas, the co-author of A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change, and a professor at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, reserved his harshest criticism for teacher educators.

"I think they are stuck in old models, and they're the ones that are going to be doing the training," said Thomas, noting specifically criticism of his book that has come from teacher colleges. The book, he said in his keynote, aims to get educators to re-examine how they think about the learning process. "They want to push back and say, 'Well, there's nothing new here,' or 'If that's the case, why is this happening?' " Thomas said.

Thomas also agreed with an audience commenter, who said part of the problem with conceiving how students learn is that, unlike teachers in the K-12 realm, college professors are required to be subject experts, but not to be certified as educators. He related his own experience, in which he had pushed through K-12 study, four years of college, and seven years of graduate school without ever receiving instruction on how to instruct.

Mark Edwards, superintendent of the Mooresville, N.C., school district we featured in last fall's Digital Directions, was more measured in response to Thomas' comments, but advocated opening channels for discussion between K-12 and higher education as it relates to teacher training.

"We need to create ongoing dialogue about the evolution of learning," Edwards said. "Whether we hire teachers from the most progressive universities, we make clear [in Mooresville] that there's a responsibility to continue their education."

Thomas' co-author, John Seely Brown, will be one of the featured presenters at the conference's closing plenary tomorrow afternoon.

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