It’s like throwback Thursday (#TBT), only it’s Tuesday! However, I am doing a little digital housecleaning and have stumbled upon some great files from my past. One is a picture of a fave student who just graduated from university last month. In the picture he’s in 9th grade, slightly chubby with short hair. He’s now tall, thin, with long metal-rocker locks.
Among the gems, I found the following document chronicling a workshop experience led by a certain Mr. Jeff Utecht at the 2010 NESA Spring Educators Conference in Bangkok. Not a surprise that this document was submitted to SUNY Buffalo (with a check) in exchange for graduate credit. I was COETAIL blogging before COETAIL was a thing! Note the hyperlinks. Those were there in the original Word document. (Only the NESA link gets an error message.)
I think this is evidence that my life could not have been complete without the COETAIL experience.
NESA 2010 Spring Educators’ Conference – PAPER 1
Buffalo State University
April 24, 2010
Thoughts on the Changing Role of the Educator in the 21st Century
At the NESA 2010 Spring Educators’ Conference in Bangkok, I (finally!) had the pleasure of attending a workshop led by Jeff Utecht of the International School of Bangkok. I walked away from his workshop entitled “Building Student Centered Blended Learning Environments” with a wealth of information. The role of technology is changing the delivery of education in significant ways. In truth, technology’s impact on the changing role of the educator is even more considerable.
Technology itself doesn’t change education, the classroom, or teaching practices. The problem with any pedagogical movement is often that it is touted as the thing that will transform education. This is the misconception that often sinks sound pedagogical ideas. A laptop cart that sits locked in a storage room doesn’t change teaching. Sparkling new computer labs that are used to teach PowerPoint don’t necessarily make for a productive learning environment. Something more than just having the technology, or access to it, is required.
It’s not about having access to the technology. The majority of my high school students carry around a mobile phone (mostly smartphones), an iPod touch, or a laptop. They own technology, they use technology, but it’s not currently impacting their learning in positive and productive ways. Students are left to their own devices (literally and figuratively) to make sense of the technology that surrounds them. Their misguided and uneducated misadventures into 21st century technology often find them making a lot of mistakes (i.e. cyber/text bullying, copy-paste plagiarism, etc.).
I find that most of my students haven’t independently moved beyond very low-level educational uses of 21st century technology. These misuses include: reading Spark Notes or Shmoop instead of actually reading George Orwell’s 1984, following bizarre urban legends via their BBM network, texting gossip during classes, looking up words on dictionary.com, creating mash-up essays with excerpts lifted from various free essay sources on the web, and the list goes on. In fact, there is even a small minority of serious students who seem to be anti-technology because they see it misused and abused by students around them as tools for distractions and gossip mongering.
Pedagogy must change to shift the focus of 21st century learning environments. Educators must make the leap into the 21st century (hey, it’s already 10% over!). Schools need to stop reacting to students’ misuse of technology in the classroom and teach them how to become better learners while using a smartphone, laptop, or iPad. There is often an outcry from community groups when books are banned from libraries and classrooms. It’s time to hear the outcry when students are deprived of using 21st century technologies to become better learners.
My experiences in education now span two decades. I’ve been in the business long enough now to have seen my share of educational change. I have a better understanding of those been-there-done-that veterans from my early days of teaching who always stated smugly, “This new bandwagon is just like the one from x years ago.” One aspect of teaching that never changes, regardless of the bandwagon du jour, is that there is not one easy fix that will revolutionize education. Technology itself is not going to revolutionize the field of education, classrooms, or instructional practices. The key is how educators and their pedagogical practices must change in order to remain relevant in the lives of the 21st century learner.