As my Digital Leading and Learning program winds down, I am left to think about where I stand. Where was I before the program started? Where am I now? Where do I see myself in the coming years as digital tools change, multiply, and eventually disappear for new ones to take their places?
Before I started the program, I was in a rut. I was repeating lessons, grading papers, and essentially just getting through each day with a few fun activities thrown in here and there. I was using technology minimally, where I was asked to by my administration, even though I am a relatively young and “with it” teacher.
When the program started, and in the most recent months, I felt a catalyst for change. I was inspired by the resources shared by my program classmates and I started to adjust, reshape, and re-imagine my educational philosophy. I found that I cared less and less about standardized testing and numerical grades. I was discovering that the world is changing and that education needs to as well. I realized technology is underutilized in the realm of education even though it is present in everyone’s every day lives. I started to think about whether or not education has even changed at all over the years when I came across the following video, which became my impetus for change.
In the video, Prince Ea discusses the values of the education system and how, really, they haven’t changed over the past 150 years. Sure, chalkboards have turned into white boards. Projectors have turned into 3Ms that digitally project rather than through light and clear paper. But the system is the same, the standards are the same, and the classrooms look the same. I realized I didn’t want to do the same thing for the next 25 years of my teaching career.
So what have I done differently? How have I impacted my students’ learning through the use of technology? For one, I don’t shy away from it. I do not have a “no phone” policy in my classroom. I share with my students the understanding that there is an appropriate time and way to use phones in my classroom. This is a skill they need to learn. In their lives, they will be surrounded by people staring at their phones. That is what the world looks like today. Go to a park and sit and watch for 15 minutes if you don’t believe me! Whether it is an idea you agree with or not, it is the way it is.
As a teacher, I have adapted the ideology that it is my job to help my students become productive members of society, and because I am an English teacher, it is my job to do so through the use of literature and writing. I try to assign them tasks to complete rather than facts to learn, since they now have pretty much any fact literally at their fingertips. I try to facilitate their creativity by presenting them with problems to solve rather than information to remember. Ken Robinson, a famous TED Talk speaker, claims that the way schools are set up today are creativity killers, as shown in his powerful video below:
In the future, especially after having completed my Digital Leading and Learning masters degree, I plan on becoming more active in my professional learning networks. At the moment, I am merely a consumer. That is just the phase of my career that I am in. I was lost, so I joined a relevant degree program and I started consuming as much as I possible could to help enhance my teaching. Once I am ready, I plan to contribute. It takes time to stay up to date with all of the new tools available, but the best way to do this is to be active members of educational technology learning networks.
ISTE and Edutopia are the two where I spend most of my time. In fact, at the end of this course, I plan to publish to one of them my ideas about using social media to enhance students’ learning and connection to literature. I have spent the past couple of years studying how my students use social media. I learned that they think Facebook is for old people. I learned they spend the vast majority of their days on Snap Chat and group chat. They also use blogging sites like Tumblr often. What I learned, most importantly of all, is that these social media resources are all about connectivity to students. They like to feel connected to each other, ALL. THE. TIME. They do NOT like to disconnect. So why ask them to? Why not bring their connectivity into the classroom? It is because of this that I have started using social media to help students connect to literature in a variety of ways.
They create Twitter accounts to post from a variety of perspectives of characters to have them speak the way they would if they were here with us today. They create YouTube videos parodying conflicts and themes from the novels we study. They blog and comment on each others’ blogs to see how each of them is connecting with the literature we read. They create SnapChat Stories to try to hone in on the seven most important seconds of a characters’ choice or situation. So, yes, I have started utilizing technology in my classroom. But I want to do it MORE and I want more ACCESS to computers and iPads and notebooks. My school is well-funded but poorly resources in this respect, so one of my next missions is to see how to get involved with budgeting and campaigning for certain resources. Technology changes literally all the time. In the video below, Andrew Essex claims it is even out of date to call cell phones, cell phones. They are mini super computers than do a million other things, most of which aren’t even used to make calls, because, you know, who calls anyone anymore?
Primarily, I am getting to the point where I will be ready soon to be a contributor in addition to a consumer. I will always be a consumer because I need to stay up to date, but I also need to return the favor and share what I have learned in my program and through my consumption. I will not be the teacher that burns out of boredom after so many years. I will keep my students engaged and learning valuable life long skills rather than facts, and I will do the best that I can to help mold them into the innovators our world needs today.
Ea, P. (2016, September). I just sued the school system [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dqTTojTija8
Essex, A. (2010, September). The role of technology in education [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s46sn-qPrRc
Robinson, K. (2006, February). Do schools kill creativity? [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity
*All images are in the public domain.