Pedro Noguera, PhD, is a professor in the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development at New York University. He is also the Executive Director of the Metropolitan Center for Urban Education and the co-Director of the Institute for the study of Globalization and Education in Metropolitan Settings (IGEMS). An urban sociologist, Noguera’s scholarship and research focuses on the ways in which schools are influenced by social and economic conditions in the urban environment. Noguera has served as an advisor and engaged in collaborative research with several large urban school districts throughout the United States. He has also done research on issues related to education and economic and social development in the Caribbean, Latin America and several other countries throughout the world. Between 2000 and 2003, Noguera served as the Judith K. Dimon Professor of Communities and Schools at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. From 1990 to 2000, he was a Professor in Social and Cultural Studies at the Graduate School of Education and the Director of the Institute for the Study of Social Change at the University of California, Berkeley.
Question: What role do data and data gathering play in your work?
Pedro Noguera: Well we do a lot of research in schools, so we study schools. We help schools to understand how they need to change by helping them to become clear on what the problems are. We think it’s very important that before you go and reform a school or change a school that you are clear on what the problem is, that you make sure that the remedy matches the problem, which sound like common sense, but unfortunately that doesn’t happen enough, so it’s very important to give teachers, principals a real clear sense of what they need to focus on in order to get better results. P.S. 012 that I mentioned before, they have a great data person who can give teachers very precise data on each and every one of their students, so they know exactly what they need to work on. That’s very important if we want teachers to be more effective at what they do. The alternative is guesswork and guesswork doesn’t work that well.
Question: How important is new technology in schools, and which schools are using technology effectively?
Pedro Noguera: Well I see lots of examples. You know I see schools that are using smartboards now very effectively. I barely understand using them myself still, but I’m impressed by when I see them being used as a part of instruction because it makes it much more interactive and the kids seem to respond extremely well because you know this is… they’re working with computers and videogames all the time. I was visiting a classroom the other day where a teacher was using videogames to teach a history lesson and kids were totally engaged. There is a math program I’ve been working with now called EPGY and it allows… The software allows… can figure out what the student doesn’t understand and take them backwards to… so it can figure out what they did learn and then build a foundation back up and software is doing that, so the… What it does is it gives the children the ability to have more control over learning, which is I think what we really want. So there are a lot of examples of good technology out there. I always say the most important thing is to make sure that teachers are comfortable with using the technology. In many schools the children are more comfortable with it than the adults and that is a problem.