A Reflective Look Back…
In reflecting on my learning these past 7 weeks through my graduate studies, specifically in relation to technological abilities, and knowledge of effective technology integration, the assigned readings, colleague discussions, and course work have most certainly allowed me the opportunity to become a teacher leader in the area of technology integration. In looking at how this course has helped to develop my own technology skills as a professional teacher it is safe to say that my own personal beliefs, attitudes, assumptions, and ultimately my level of understanding have all changed. Throughout my career I have always worked to embrace technological innovation and strived to provide instruction which is current and relevant to my students. In looking at my learning over these last few weeks the importance of effectively responding to the changing learning needs of today’s digital students has really been reinforced. Clearly societal expectations are that students develop 21st century skills and dispositions whilst sitting in today’s classrooms, consequently teachers need to be able to deliver instruction that addresses these expectations and develops not only technological proficiency but also students’ abilities to locate, evaluate, and communicate information.
Over the last few weeks I continued to expand my knowledge of learning, and leading with technology. With the aim of increasing student achievement I have been able to deepen my knowledge of the teaching and learning process, and even further recognize how the effective integration of technology is essential to ensuring student success in today’s information-based society. Prensky (2008) notes how “the world is no longer a dark, unknown place for today’s school kids…[as they now]arrive at school full of knowledge, thoughts, ideas, and opinions about their world and their universe” (p.42) as a result of their individual use of technology. Consequently teachers need to develop instruction which takes this fact into account and allows for student-centered exploration and the connecting of personal knowledge with curriculum. By collaboratively creating opportunities for these connections, teachers are able to further engage students and incorporate constructivist teaching into their pedagogy. The teaching profession has evolved, in that teachers are no longer the primary source of information for students. As Thornburg (Laureate Education, 2010) notes, today’s students are critical consumers of knowledge, consequently teachers must now act as facilitators wherein the onus for learning is shifted to the students. Within today’s classrooms learning and the inherent level of success experienced by students is now measured in relation to 1) students’ abilities to evaluate, synthesize, and effectively model today’s new age skills; and 2) the interconnected ability of the teacher to generate open-ended instruction which integrates technology in a meaningful manner and promotes student engagement.
In looking at ways in which teachers can continue to expand their own knowledge of learning, teaching, and leading with technology, clearly the necessity of lifelong learning is paramount to the pursuit of continual increases in student achievement. Societal change will not stop and the rate of technological innovation will continue to influence the manner in which classroom instruction is delivered. Today’s teachers need to be individuals capable of engaging and motivating students with relevant and individualized instruction which efficiently promotes increased opportunities for students to use technology to, as Singh and Means (1997) note, “address realistic situations [and] …enhance individual responsibility” (as cited by Keengwe et. al, 2008, p.82) through the collaborative integration of knowledge. In being lifelong learners effective educators will make the effort to acquire the requisite technology skills and dispositions which will aid them in the efficient embracing of technological integration, and revision of their instruction to incorporate it effectively. In addition to better preparing teachers for in the classroom, the continued pursuit of learning will also better equip them with the specific knowledge needed to, as Thornburg (Laureate Education, 2010) notes, be effective voices of change.
In looking to the future in terms of goals for transforming classroom environments in relation to the integration of technology, obviously having my staff efficiently implementing a variety of instructional technologies and generating high levels of student performance is at the top of my list, followed closely by the establishing of a professional development program in which teachers would collaboratively work to generate a system of learning which would allow them to stay abreast of the latest technological innovations and their impact on student learning. Both are lofty goals but ones which I feel are realistic and achievable as both are centered on the meeting of student needs, something which all teachers, regardless of skill level, are committed to. In terms of potential obstacles obviously the acquisition of additional resource funding for increased/current technologies will be the most pressing and will undoubtedly require the support of parents’ council and the local community. In lobbying to meet the technological needs of our students the concerted effort of all staff members will be needed, and having them educated as to the advantages of effective technology integration, as a result of my second goal, will go a long way towards to promoting our educational cause.
Now in establishing an effective professional development program for teachers the largest hurdles to overcome will, as Valdez et al. (2000) note, relate more upon “human and contextual factors than on hardware and software” (as cited by Keengwe et al., 2008, p.80). Teachers over time have a tendency to become creatures of habit, and when they find an instructional strategy which they deem to be effective it soon becomes a source of instructional comfort. In working to push teachers beyond the confines of their comfort zones and alter the instructional mindsets of teachers towards the effective delivery of 21st century instruction, the key will be, as Prensky (2005) highlights, getting teachers to “raise their heads from the grindstone and observe the new landscape that is emerging” (p.9) around them. Through the effective communication of knowledge regarding emerging trends in student learning and the necessity for instructional change, teachers will recognize technology’s inherent ability to assist in the development of student-centered instruction which builds upon student interests and facilitates new age skills. Undoubtedly this instructional shift will take time but by clearly voicing the need for this shift through the creation of a meaningful professional development program, teachers can proactively become lifelong learners and purposefully take collaborative action towards the development of personal skills and dispositions that will aid them in their teaching and ultimately benefit their now digital students.
Finally in closing these last few weeks have served to not only highlight the need for relevant instruction and shone a light on the ever-growing influence of technology within the field of education, but has also given me the opportunity to step beyond my own comfort zone and explore elements of educational technology with I had had limited exposure – and for this I am grateful as it has added further tools to my instructional ‘toolkit’; and as Thornburg (Laureate Education, 2010) notes, opened up a world of learning possibilities capable of sparking the flame of learning in all learners - both student and teacher!
Keengwe, J., Onchwari, G. and Wachira, P. (2008, January). The Use of Computer Tools to Support Meaningful Learning. AACE Journal. 16(1). p.77-92. Chesapeake, VA: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education. Retrieved December 13, 2011 from: Education Research Complete database. ISSN: 15513696.
Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2010). The Changing Role of the Teacher: Part 1 [Webcast]. Understanding the Impact of Technology on Education, Work, and Society. Baltimore, MD: Author. Retrieved December 12, 2011 from: http://sylvan.live.ecollege.com/ec/crs/default.learn?CourseID=6072032&Survey=1&47=8988338&ClientNodeID=984650&coursenav=1&bhcp=1.
Prensky, M. (2005, December). Listen to the Natives. Educational Leadership. 63(4). p.8-13. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Retrieved December 13, 2011 from: Academic Search Complete database. ISSN: 00131784.
Prensky, M. (2008, March). Turning On the Lights. Educational Leadership. 65(6). p.40-45. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Retrieved December 13, 2011 from: Academic Search Complete database. ISSN: 00131784.