Back to the Basics: Needs of Today’s 21st. Century Learners

Today the education profession is rife with buzz terms to describe what it is we are attempting to do with respect to engaging students in a modern, meaningful way. As an educator I have been inundated with terms like: the 21st Century Classroom, Web Tools 2.0, On-line publishing, Twitter feeds, blogging, the Virtual Classroom, networking, best practices, Sky Drives and the list goes on. It is a lot to take in for anyone; especially teachers who due to classroom workload and commitments outside of the classroom even when motivated in this regard. As an educator I am fascinated by the opportunities that much of this modern technology potentially offers to both my colleagues, myself as well as my students.

In planning for and making use of many of these modern technological advances in the classroom one of the greatest obstacles, next to my own learning curve and planning, is the fact that many students do not seem to have a command of the basic skill sets to make the most use of these programs. In many smaller school settings computer classes may be limited or non-existent, or teaching technological practices that are fast moving out of vogue. I well remember when PowerPoint was a skill that was considered to be fairly advanced in the realm of presenting of students findings. While this is still an important skill that assists students in assembling and processing information it is by no means the end all and be all. Today I find that many students, while they have heard of many of the above items, have had very little exposure to actually using or manipulating these new technologies. In many cases the most sophisticated programming some use is Facebook – not that it is not a hallmark tool in the realm of social networking – it does leave a lot to be desired in teaching the skills that students need in order leverage maximum return on the use of technology in the classroom.

I continue to ponder how best to deal with this situation in my own classroom as some of my students struggle to utilize these new technologies in their studies. There are several conclusions that I have reached in this regard. First and foremost be selective, as an educator, about which new technologies you are going to use in the classroom – too much too fast will leave everyone scrambling and feeling frustrated. You, as the teacher, because your student are not getting it fast enough and what should have been a 40 minute assignment has turned into a 80 or more minute nightmare for all concerned. Second, make sure that you as the teacher have a fairly solid command of the technologies that you are using in the classroom. Often I spend several months working with a program or feature before introducing it into the classroom – when I first started there were somethings like my virtual classroom through Taking IT Global where I spent almost a year experimenting before I rolled it out to the students.  There are still days when my students hear, “stupid computer!” As I attempt to get some program to work; that was working fine for me when there was no audience. Third, and this may be the most important – allow time in your planning to teach the specific skills necessary to utilize the technology that you are implementing in your classroom. Do not make the assumption that because students are using a variety of digital devices that they have any idea about the specifics of using the specific technology that you are getting ready to use in your classroom. Finally as the teacher we have to accept that, as with many things that we try in our classrooms, to expect that some things are just not a good fit and need to be scrapped.

When it comes to implementation of a new technology in the classroom I plan, after pondering this dilemma, to ensure sufficient time so that students have the time to be instructed in the specific technology as well as getting a chance to engage in a guided  exploration of  the technology prior to using. While this will cut into curriculum instruction time – I believe that done properly the technology will pay larger dividends in the long run. This, to many may seem like only good teaching practice but for many of us trying to make sense of technology ourselves, its implementation in the classroom in a meaningful manner and giving our students an optimal opportunity to utilize this technology these ideas may be worth thinking about.

How do you leverage the use of technology in your classroom?

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Daniel, I think your comments are right on the mark. I myself am a learner of some of the technology that is out there,and it would not take much to leave me in a daze..
    There is certainly a difference in having some knowledge of a lot of the programes and being able to use them to advantage

  2. Thanks, I think that you once told me that there was a huge difference between being a developer of something and an end product user. The fact is that the amount of “cool” tools that are out there today is huge and growing expotentially daily.

    I think that it is important to research a few that seem to meet ones needs maybe 5-10 or so to keep it simple, review these to short list maybe 3-4 that you are going to experiment with and from there develop a decision on one or two that you are going to work with initially until you have a level of competence to be able to “roll it out” to the students in a way that they can be instructed in its use, be allowed to experiment with it and be comfortable with it prior to being asked to do anything with it that is going to be evaluated toward a course mark or assessment of some sort.


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