My school is at the beginning of its first year with 1:1 integration at both the middle school and the high school, where I teach sophomore world history and English for juniors. The drastic change in my students’ access to technology has led me to look differently at how I run my classroom.
Rethinking the Roles of Teachers
With the use of technology, my role in the classroom is changing. I used to be the dispenser of knowledge in my classroom, but a Chromebook in the hands of every one of my students means they have access to knowledge on their own. In fact, “educators are moving beyond dispensing information…Teachers now address social and emotional factors affecting student learning” (Freeman, Adams Becker, Cummins, Davis, & Hall Giesinger, 2017, p. 30). My role is now more like a guide on a journey, helping the students see the deeper implications of texts and events and how they touch our lives today.
Improving Digital Literacy
My students understand Snapchat, and I just do not understand why I would want to use a filter that makes me look like a puppy. From my side of the teacher desk, it looks like my students are leaps ahead of me in the world of technology, but sometimes that is an illusion. According to Stanford researchers cited by Freeman, et. all (2017), students “are unprepared to judge the credibility of news” (p. 28). My students may use technology more comfortably than I do (including those crazy filters), but that does not mean they are using it effectively. Part of my evolving job as the teacher is to help students deepen their digital literacy at the same time we are deepening their reading literacy.
Deeper Learning Approaches
Last year, in preparation for 1:1, the administrators at my school rolled out a shift towards project-based learning (PBL) for our students. We are trying to encourage students to think and work among the higher-order skills and “lead their own inquiry” (Freeman, et. all, 2017, p. 14). Right now our juniors are studying the words of the Puritans as anthropologists, trying to figure out what we can learn about them as a people along with how they shaped the United States we live in today. I have taught Puritan literature for four years now, and this project has led my students to a deeper understanding of the literature and the lives of the people who wrote it than ever before. They are asking me challenging questions, instead of just trying to find the answers to pass the quiz.
Advancing Cultures of Innovation
The combination of 1:1 devices in my building and using the PBL model has led to change in my classroom and my school. Freeman et. all (2017) wrote “Transforming cultures in schools means recruiting and retaining teachers and school leaders who are ready to pioneer new systems with expertise and an ‘all-in’ mindset.” (p.12) This is true, but part of that “all-in” mindset requires teachers and leaders who are willing to fail, a natural consequence of innovation. Sometimes the Internet goes down in the middle of a lesson. Textbooks never go down. Sometimes it takes three years of teaching a genocide project to work out all of the kinks of being able to assess both group work and individual work. Sometimes the combination of technology and PBL leads to magical innovation the first time around, but not often.
Freeman, A., Adams Becker, S., Cummins, M., Davis, A., and Hall Giesinger, C. (2017). NMC/CoSN Horizon Report: 2017 K–12 Edition. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.