Monday, February 14, 2011

Teaching in the 21st Century

Uncle Sam Wats You

Last Friday I posted notice of the Watson vs. Jeopardy Stars Event. Forty students left comments prior to my writing thispost. Over and over they wrote something like this: “I don’t want my students to depend on technology to gather information.” The suggested substitutes or additional methods for gathering information were libraries, classrooms, books, encyclopedias, hard work, pencils, paper, teachers. One student made it crystal clear: “A teacher’s job is to provide information.”

I have two response.

First, and most importantly, the assumption that underlies these responses is that learning = information. That is absolutely not true, even though our educational system has forced you to believe that it is true with its emphasis on burp-back education and machine readable tests. It makes me ill to think what our educational system has done to you. DO NOT LET IT CONTINUE IN YOUR CLASSROOMS!

Second, a sense of fear pervades at least half of the responses. What are the sources of those fears? First there is a fear that all information should not be available to everyone. One student compared the information available as a result of the new technologies as in need of restrictions similar to the restrictions we attempt to place on nuclear weapons. (He did admit that his position was a bit extreme.) Others suggested that "inappropriate" information might be available, or connections made with unsavory individuals. Still others suggested we could undermine the ability to write and spell, we could lose our jobs to machines, the emotion and excitement of human responses would disappear, students would become lazy, hard work would not be valued, thinking would be undermined, we could encounter severe difficulties in case of electronic or political actions that shut down technologies, we might become “robot chow,” intelligence would decrease over time, people would be less willing to learn facts, machines would take over thinking, “humans would become obsolete.”

Wow! What a list of fears. A few respondents, but only a few, expressed the fear that without the technologies their students or their children would be faced with severe economic difficulties and extreme competition from those who did have and use the tools to their maximum advantage. But several more admitted that they would not like it at all if they were separated from their cellphone tools!

Look again at the video assigned for last Sunday (2/13) - Kevin Robert’s Teaching In the 21st Century. Even though this video was renamed by one student Mr. Very Long Video , it is worth your attention for the full 9 and 3/4 minutes (my, how short your attention spans have gotten!) it takes to watch it. And then it deserves some additional time while you think about what it has to say about teaching since you intend to be “teachers.”

Here’s a quick summary for those of you without 9:49 to spare:

•If teachers are mere dispensers of information, our jobs are obsolete!
•We must teach our students how to validate, synthesize, leverage, communicate, collaborate with, problem solve with information.

A Strange interruption: How well can you do these things? Has anyone ever taught you how to do these things? Are you learning these things now in the College of Education?

We return to our program in progress:

•We must teach skills not facts.
•In addition to teaching students to remember, we must also teach them how to understand, apply, analyze, evaluate, create. Yes create!
•And we must teach them about responsibility, reliability, integrity, collaboration.
•We must rethink our classrooms. What tools should we and our students use? What problems should we ask our students to solve?
•Ask your students to explain, evaluate and justify their positions about contemporary, interesting issues that affect them.
•Your classrooms will have to be relevant, challenging, engaging. Not entertaining - engaging!

Another Strange interruption: You cannot, you must not teach the way you were taught! You must be a different kind of teacher in a different kind of world. If I thought you would, I would urge you to go back through Teaching In the 21st Century again. Slowly. Taking more than 9 3/4 minutes. It is worth you most careful consideration! We must also learn from our students. Thanks to Teri Hampton (Fall 2010) for bringing this most important video to my attention!

We return to our program in progress:

•These changes must start with YOU!

What Does It Mean to Teach in the 21st Century?


  1. I just watched Ms. Drexler's video. Her video opened my eyes. Everything we are learning in EDM310 is beginning to come together. Technology has to be part of education and teachers must be technology literate. In the video she explains exactly what the 21st Century teacher is like. It is nothing like any teacher I ever had, but what I hope to be.

  2. I do agree that we can not teach as we were taught. I realize that education has to change and grow with the technology that is now available. We as teachers have to be able to incorporate technology into our classrooms in order to first hold the students attention and second to prepare them for the world in which they are to become a productive part of. Technology is ever changing and it is a scary thing because you can never be an expert as most teachers feel they should be. I think the answer is to realize that as teachers we just have to be expert learners! We have to be willing to try the new technology, sometimes that may even mean learning from our students. We can't be afraid to try new things! We have to meet the challenge of the future head on and not allow ourselves to hold onto the "old ways" to the detriment of our students. I hope that I can incorporate all that I have learned and will learn in EDM310 in my classroom once I begin to teach! I want to be the teacher that the students think is cool because they are engaged and are learning when they think they are just having fun. I know it will be hard because as a whole society often resists change and there are many teachers with a lot of seniority that will hold out and resist the movement to incorporate more technology into the classroom. They will offer every reason why it won't work and that things are working fine now so why change. I hope to be a strong enough voice to change that attitude and help to move education into the 21st century!

  3. Dr. Strange, I wonder how many students will still feel the same after the positive experiences we've encountered in EDM310? I admit that my fear included having the time to meet all the demands of state objectives and incorporate technology. After analyzing Mr. McClung's blog, I realize that this is possible. It is important to instill skills allowing student to become independent learners and thinkers which includes synthesizing information, collaborating, and problem solving. I really liked that you said, "You cannot, you must not teach the way you were taught." This statement is true because with that kind of teaching so much can be lost to the student including creativity, confidence, or interest in learning. One thing I have learned is to take chances and that becoming a life long learner alongside students and collaborators will make teaching more fulfilling. Technology is the tool to engage students with their learning experience.

  4. Dr. Strange,
    Technology is growing all around us whether we like it or not. I have not been in EDM310 long, but it has been long enough to realize I need to open my eyes. Before this class, I don't think I realized how much education is changing. The use of appropriate technology in the classroom is changing education forever. I need to get on board... and FAST!

    I can admit that I was one of those students proclaiming all of those same fears you mentioned above. While taking this class, and reading this blog I have realized that being scared should motivate me. If I new I was technologically literate, and making my best effort to stay that way (with all the advances in technology every month)then I should not be scared. Being open-minded, working hard and taking risks should prove to be beneficial in my teaching career. Embracing the technology, and using it to better the classroom and the students learning experience is a beautiful thing.