by Scott Bricker
Expert Educator Columnist, USA
Three weeks ago, my wife and I welcomed our first child into the world, a ridiculously adorable little boy named Carter. As his Father I am admittedly incredibly biased in my opinion but, never the less, his arrival got us thinking. Over the first few days of his life, while dodging tears, sleepless nights and all kinds of laughs at his adorable facial expressions, we have had some great conversations about this ever-changing world into which Carter has entered, which is clearly so different than anything we have ever known as students or educators.
While Carter definitely has a few years before he has to worry about getting good grades and preparing for his future, the idea that his world experience could not be more different than ours has been, will just not exit my mind. Consequently, I am led to one very important question I feel must be answered in order for this Ed Tech revolution we are all leading to reach a successful conclusion: How do we help teachers understand that as the world changes, so too must their teaching habits, philosophies and feelings about their students and technology in the classroom be completely overhauled?
So many teachers, no matter their grade level, subject area, or years of experience, somewhere along the way bought whole-heartedly into the “If it aint broke, don’t fix it” mantra that works in many areas of life but, quite frankly, can be disastrous in a classroom setting. Teachers are such creatures of habit and once they find something that works, they go back to that trick over and over regardless of how their audience feels about it. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that EVERYTHING has to change. I mean, one plus one will always equal two and adjectives will always modify nouns, so there are certainly at least a few academic principles and practices that remain steadfast and true. But, there are a few essential components of the classroom that must change to meet the needs of today’s students.
First and foremost, with One-to-One programs, social media, and instantaneous access to information flooding the minds and lives of our students, our task as educators now has a completely different playground than ever before. Various studies show the number of internet searches per day to be in the billions…that’s billions…with a “B”, which means people are constantly in search of the instant gratification that comes from quickly finding answers to questions. To learn a new fact about history, watch a video on how to hang a TV on the wall, or catch up on any aspect of current events in the news, all anyone has to do is type in a few keywords into a search box and thousands upon thousands of links to related information will appear in a matter of a second or less.
Tell me then, why would anyone find equivalent value in sitting through an hour long lecture, five days a week, 180 school days per year when all that same info can be discovered in a fraction of the time? The answer is, they wouldn’t. Furthermore, in a school setting we must also consider that many teachers only think about our individual classroom, without regard for the other 4 or 5 or more classes our students attend each day. What if they sat through lectures in all of their classes each day of the week, and were then expected to go home and review it all without anyone there to help them collect or connect their thoughts and ideas? Seems backwards in my mind. While I do not think the 100% flipped classroom model is THE one and only solution, I do believe that leveraging technology to create a more engaging classroom can and will make a huge impact on all of our students.
Second, quite often teachers complain about not having enough time to get together and talk about curriculum and do more planning and discussing as a group. Collaboration is key to teacher success, right? Well why wouldn’t that same line of thinking also become an essential component of student success, when all we crave as individuals is that connection to others? Carving out time during the class period to allow students to collaborate with each other and you, the teacher, creates an exchange of information that can only increase engagement and strengthen the grasp students have on information.
Finally, with the devices our students can use in the classroom, the collection, organization and retention of information is better than ever. Gone are the days where students have to sift through a backpack of 500 loose sheets of paper to find the vocab words they need to study. Now, they can just type into a search box in OneNote and go directly to those key words in an instant. Talk about efficiency! In addition, with addition of the stylus, we can move away from just typing and toward digital ink, falling in line with the many studies that show handwriting notes is better than just typing them. To have those notes digitally, AND have them organized and searchable? Now we are talking about a significant change in how our students do work.
Hopefully these ideas (and many more, I am sure) help us answer that original question of how to help teachers understand they must change with the world around them. I encourage you all to continue sharing and demonstrating these thoughts and philosophies with your teachers, knowing that, with a little persistence and whole lot of patience, our dreams of revolutionizing the classroom will be realized.
Scott Bricker is the Director of Instructional Technology at Santa Margarita Catholic High School in Orange County, California. SMCHS was recently named a Microsoft Showcase School for 2014-2015 and we are in the first full year of our One-to-One Tablet PC Program. Follow me on Twitter, @BrickerCoaching, for more insights and daily musings on Educational Technology, Sports, and the world around us.