I think one of the most important things we can bring to our classrooms, and schools, is vision. Vision for what can be, regardless of what is right now. This morning I was asked the question, “If I was to pick one word to describe who I am as a teacher, what would it be?” For me, I think it’s vision-caster.
My school isn’t one that has technology embedded in every class or grade. If used, it’s often an add-on or research tool. However, I believe it can be different. And I’m going to try my best to make it so.
There are a few days left in our current semester, however, I’m already looking forward to the next one. Next semester I teach a technology class. It’s the first one our school is offering in at least four years. And I have 25 students enrolled, which may not sound like a lot, but you have to understand, we’re a small school. And of the students it’s offered to, over half are enrolled in my tech class. Why so many? Because I cast the vision, for my students, of what it will be.
I believe in offering my students the highest calibre of teaching I can. And technology makes that all the more possible. While a lot of this class will revolve around digital storytelling, they’re going to learn how technology is not only entertaining, but also a powerful educational tool.
My students are excited that they’ll be blogging. They know they’ll be making movies and editing pictures, but beyond these they’ll be introduced to tools such as Google reader & RSS, Diigo, Evernote, and Jing. And they’ll be using Symbaloo to keep track of their tools. For many of my students, I think they’re looking forward to the challenge. It’s like nothing else they do in school.
Today I got to share more exciting news with my students. Next year we’ll be offering a new course — Global Studies 30. On my syllabus I plan to call it Global Studies 30: Connect. Communicate. Collaborate. We’ll be the only school in our province with it. This alone is enough to make my students excited. Over the next month, I’ll be developing a local course with one of the curriculum consultants in my division.
The class, as I envision it, has a great degree of technology embedded. For some of my students, the extent of the technology will be a challenge. My hope is that in addition to units on human rights, wealth & poverty and the environment, we will study cultures in a number of parts of the world. Here’s the exciting thing. I want to be connected to classrooms in each of the areas we’re studying, so that my students will learn about Africa, Asia, Europe, and South America from students in those places. And they will learn about Canada from my students.
There are many in education today who are espousing the importance of students being globally minded. I think this course is an important beginning. In addition to learning about other cultures, it will ask them to critically evaluate their own, and hopefully begin to show that the solution for a culture’s problems must come from within that culture, rather than be imposed from outside of it. I hope by connecting with students from other cultures it will help my students begin to step outside their North American ethnocentricity.
Furthermore, not only are my students excited, but my colleagues that I’ve shared this idea with are excited, and amazed, at what we are able to offer our students. One of my colleagues stated, “You can do that? I’d love to be able to connect my students with another elementary classroom in the world.” I told her she can; I’ll even show her how.
While I typically am a Lone Ranger in my school, I had a technology conversation today with our senior math teacher. I asked him if he’s teaching a split math class next semester. He is, 30B and calculus. I mentioned that he should consider using a wiki. I explained that it would allow his students to be more self-sufficient, and those who grasp concepts sooner can move ahead. Through the use of Khan Academy videos, and other relevant media, students will never have to wait for him again. Instead, they can work ahead, which will allow him to monitor their progress and help where needed, while freeing him up to work with students who struggle. Additionally, if a student misses, the information is all there. And at anytime, parents can see what their child is learning. This is why I love wikis. He thought about it and said, “okay, you might have to show me how this wiki thing works.”
This is how I plan to teach my chemistry classes next year. I tend to have three students who understand most concepts very quickly, but sit around for three days, while the rest of the class learns it as well. And it never fails that two or three students need more time, and begin to fall behind.
Using a wiki this way, students who catch on can work ahead, and as more students learn the concept, they can move on as well. This will allow me to spend more time one-on-one with the two or three students who need me to sit down and explain what we’re doing, and why it’s done that way, multiple times, if necessary. For the first time, stronger students might actually get to the optional units that are offered.
I think part of my job is showing my colleague’s how incredibly useful these tools are. While most students use technology for entertainment, I think this is often true of adults as well. Most adults, including teachers, don’t realize the power many of these tools offer.
I think I have the ability to show people what can be, by painting a picture of the potential that things have. This is why I’ve decided I’d like to become an administrator in the next couple of years, although I still I want to teach too. I enjoy showing students and teachers what technology can do. And while I don’t think changes can be, or should be, forced on anyone, I believe that if you show people, one person at a time, the power of technology, change will slowly occur.
photo courtesy of flickr cc: alles-schlumpf