By Sam Jones
***Disclaimer – I don’t mean to make any implications in this post, other than the idea that everyone could benefit from a little more education about how to use technology in the classroom environment.
Recently, I was on a hike and came across a pond that appeared to be completely stagnant. As I briefly gazed into the pond, and to no surprise, I didn’t see my reflection. However, I did reflect on something that has been happening in education in the last few years. As I have entered my second decade as a teacher, I have noticed that there are some negative connotations surrounding the word “experienced” when it is attached to teachers. Maybe this has always been the case and I am only starting to notice it as I have gained 10+ years of experience, but maybe this is also a new symptom of the greater challenges that face education, and to a greater extent, our society. I know it plays into the whole “can’t-teach-an-old-dog-new-tricks” trope, and sometimes it may be warranted, but sometimes it also seems to be very misguided. When did “experience” start to become a word that generally meant something good, but now also has the possible implications of being a bad thing?
Don’t let your teaching become stagnant.
I will be the first to admit that when I started teaching, I observed some “experienced” teachers that appeared to be “burned out” to a certain degree. I pledged to myself that I did not want to end up like that. But what I can’t help thinking about now is the amount of experience that veteran teachers have. I am no way saying that all veteran teachers are advanced or competent merely because they have taught for a long time, but maybe veteran teachers are not always being utilized in a manner commensurate to their skills. And, as I ponder this predicament, I can’t help but think of myself and how I can avoid “burning out”, as it were, as I begin to settle into “veteran” teacher status. As a member of the Edtech Cadre, and as a minor league tech-friendly sort of person, I have seen many teachers that are still progressing in their personal tech journeys. My thoughts might be a little scattered on this, but it would be remiss of me to not make the connection between technology and its swift and steady progression in all areas of our lives and avoiding stagnation as a teacher.
I don’t have data to back this up, but of course, I believe a teacher can be successful and avoid stagnation without ever using technology in their classroom. And of course, technology, on its own, is in no way going to make or break a teacher. However, as technology continues its prevalence and dominance in nearly every aspect of our lives, it only makes sense that teachers have a healthy and abundant relationship with it as well as an ability to facilitate its use in the classroom environment. (On a side note, why there are not required programming courses at the earliest levels of education is beyond me, but I digress.)
Ultimately, the objective of this post is to further the conversation about how learning new skills that involve technology could very well be the single most impactful thing that could help a teacher – veteran or rookie, experienced or novice – overcome the very real threat of becoming stagnant. For better or worse, much of the content will stay the same. And there probably won’t ever be a better substitute for organized, systematic, charismatic and dynamic teaching. But, even the most organized, charismatic and dynamic teacher could still be enhanced with some technological tricks up their sleeve. Now, if I had all the answers about how to best implement that, then I would probably have a book or two under my belt as well as many scheduled speaking engagements across the educational landscape.
One thing I do know (or at least, think I know), is that if we don’t learn to harness and control the technology that is so prevalent in our lives and the lives of our students, then this technology will almost certainly harness and control us. I’m not getting all SkyNet/WALL-E/Future-man conspiracy theorist now, but I think it’s plain to see that technology is strengthening its grasp upon our society in a potentially, if not already, controlling manner. This is no more true than in our classrooms and with our children and students. I will always be one of the first to say that it begins at home with the parents, but this does not eschew teachers of a shared responsibility of staying ahead of and on top of technology and how students develop their own relationships with it. Teachers, administrators curriculum developers, and even legislators need to take a more active approach towards learning about technology and how it can fit into the curriculum…and I’m not talking about using more PowerPoints or simply using a SmartBoard as a basic projector. And obviously, parents have the most responsibility in teaching their kids how to manage their technology, and thus need to be the most vigilant in establishing proper protocols and parameters when it comes to their child’s use of it.
Unfortunately, much of this is either not going to happen, or it will take a long time for it to occur, ya dig? Teachers cannot always wait for the slow wheels of bureaucracy to change the system. This is just as, or even more true with the teachers that want to avoid stagnation in their careers.
Hopefully, we can be more encouraged to try to learn some new technology tricks, tweaks, and twists. Hopefully, we can be more proactive in learning how to infuse technology in our classrooms in a way that enhances our lectures and lessons. And hopefully, we can all avoid stagnation so that we can enjoy teaching until the end of our careers which will lead to a better educational experience for all participants.