So…let’s talk tech. Even more…let’s talk tech in school. Schools have laptops, tablets, and various hand-held devices (such as smart phones). Some folks are still a little bit afraid to let loose with technology in schools. Other people think technology will solve everything.
In response, I will refer to this picture and Sir Ken Robinson. (A widely read/published author/speaker about education today.) The statement he made here is really true. Think about it.
When I was a kid, phones that were not on a party line were not a big deal. To my grandparents, however, this was a major advancement in technology. For the first time ever, we could use the phone at their house without everyone listening in on the conversation.
VCRs were high tech. Today, my kids think of them as outdated.
As I was reading and writing I realized it had been a great while since I have written anything for Brownwood News. It was one of those things that, I am ashamed to say, simply got away from me. Things have really been shaking in the world of education – curriculum changes, testing changes, budget cuts – it seems to be never ending.
So…what’s new? Well…STAAR testing had its first year this past year. I have to admit, I felt a bit of a rebellious streak throughout the whole thing. When I realized how much money was being spent on a test, but our budgets are continuing to be cut I was a bit – er – miffed. I could not help but think that this just showed another example of a lack of foresight on the part of our leaders. They expect teachers to do more…with less; fewer resources, but more students. They gave us more “rigorous” expectations and more testing, but less time and no money to do it all with. Now, I am the first to tell you that educators do not get into this business for money, fame, or popularity. However, after years of being the scapegoat for whatever ails our nation, I am personally tired of it. I courteously and respectfully invite these leaders to my classroom. Hang out for a while – say, a few weeks. Allow me to show you what goes on in a classroom every day. I guarantee you it is not the same classroom you remember! I’ll even let you teach a lesson or two, and do all the planning that comes with it. You can buy supplies out of your own pocket, and save my money. Just a thought.
This week we had the honor of sharing our technology ideas with teachers, administrators, and librarians from all across the state. I lost track of the people who entered my room carrying notepads, tablets, iPads, and folders of information. As they came into my room asking questions and observing my students I noted two things I thought would be worth mentioning.
First, my students were quite impressive. No big surprise to me! After all, I am aware that my students are pretty amazing! Many of our visitors commented on how great my classes were, how well the students worked, and how impressed they were. I, of course, smiled modestly and said “thank you”. I was very proud of all my kids and simply wanted to take a moment to brag on them.
With all the push for more technology, all the wonderful advances made in various tools we can use in the classroom, and all the discussion about state testing it is often easy to lose sight of what is important. Technology is wonderful – I use it every day in my classroom. However, we also need to remember the children whose lives are being impacted. Some students have a way of opening our eyes and helping us to remember what is most important: the kids.
Early in this school year I found myself amused and touched by a conversation with one of my students. She walked up to me in the hallway, smiling.
Student: “Mrs. Moore, you are awesome.”
Me, smiling: “Well, I think you are awesome, too!”
Student: “Do you know why I said that?”
Me: “Because I am awesome?”
Before school began, a colleague and I were discussing the fact that, due to the requirements of the subjects we teach, we have often been called “tough” or “mean”. Others we know, however, are “cool”. We decided that this was going to be our year to be the “cool teachers”. As we laughed at ourselves we agreed that in reality we knew that we could never be truly cool. Our days of “coolness” have long departed amidst the tough curriculum we face, the state testing, and simply holding students accountable.
As most of you know I love using technology in my classroom. I am constantly researching new web tools that are free and simple and will be interesting for the kids while helping them to learn. For the past two weeks, I have had the laptops checked out and we’ve been using them in my classroom. I set them all up in Edmodo, a social networking site for kids that also allows them to turn in work and take quizzes. I set them all up in the ebook for our 6th grade literature book, so if they have internet they don’t need to lug that amazingly heavy book home. We’ve been taking pictures to paste into the documents they’ve been typing. All this has been wonderful in my class – the students love it and are excited when they come into the room. Edmodo is – as always – a big hit and they are always leaving each other, or me, messages.
When teachers walk into their very own classroom for the first time, they are filled with excitement, nervousness, and fear. Excitement because all those hours of study and observation have paid off. There is excitement that this – at last – is a space for them to begin making a difference. The nervousness comes from the fact that, well, kids can be a tough crowd. New teachers don’t know the rules, procedures, or any tricks of the trade that come with experience. What they do have is enthusiasm and hope. That fear of failure never truly goes away. And at the beginning of every year we each step into our empty classrooms full of some of that same enthusiasm and excitement.
Teaching is not a field to enter if one hopes to get rich. Nor is it a field for those seeking fame. Sometimes it seems as if even a “thank you” is too much to hope for.
Happy Labor Day! I admit it is kind of nice to get a three-day weekend this early in the school year. Naturally, I am finding it necessary to work on lesson plans and grading papers in between rounds of Monopoly. However, I also think it is important to remember the purpose of Labor Day.
According to the Department of Labor, this day was established in order to recognize the “social and economic achievements of American workers”. The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882 in New York City. It was celebrated again a year later, and then in 1884 the first Monday in September was chosen as the holiday.
As just about everyone knows, technology in schools has become more common and less surprising. Kids love this stuff. Noises are made about “21st century learning” and the need to prepare kids for the future. All that is true enough, but the bottom line is that technology in schools just makes sense.
Think about it. Kids today are simply surrounded by technology in some form: phones, laptops, mp3 players, and computers. What’s more, most students today know exactly how to use those things. They are on Facebook, they are involved in online worlds such as Second Life; they are texting, chatting, exploring, and manipulating the tools they have.
A few years ago, having technology in the classroom was the exception. Now, schools are working hard to make it the rule. Teachers have to create all new lessons to go with the increase in technology. But with great technology comes great power (to borrow from Spiderman’s uncle). Now we also have to consider Internet safety, not to mention what to do with all that information that is flooding the web. Students have to learn what information to trust, and what not to trust. Students also have to be taught a whole new way of thinking – just as teachers have to learn to think in a whole new way about education.