Teachers are certainly accustomed to change. Without fail, teacher in-service week is an opportunity for administrators to unveil a new plan to support their goals and aspirations for the academic year. As an educator, I am well aware of the myriad of ideas that ride the bandwagon through the halls of public education. Well-seasoned teachers often meet each aim, intended to define the year, with skepticism. As one who has seen the wagon come and go for over twenty years, there is one wagon that I would welcome back with a hearty, “Huzzah!”
In Gardner Campbell’s article, ” A Personal Cyberinfrastructure,” he suggests that sometimes progress means looping back to earlier ideas in order to explore ideas that were either underexplored or unrecognized for their importance. To loop back to find that bandwagon that extracts a “Huzzah,” would mean looping back over twenty years ago to the first year I taught fifth grade.
While I would never classify myself as a “Luddite,” one would have thought that I had left the age of cave dwellers when I accepted my first teaching position in Virginia. I moved from a small, private school in Philadelphia. The community was tight-knit and caring, yet, traditional in every sense of the word. It was worlds apart from the public classroom I would encounter in 1991 the first magnet school in Virginia, which would later become a Blue Ribbon School of National Excellence. Technology abounds throughout the building, classrooms were wired for internet, and the faculty communicated via email! How incredible was this experience in 1991? Classes were small, content was innovative and critical thinking was a central component of each lesson. Standardized testing was virtually unheard of as learning was exploratory in nature. Assessments asked students to show what they learned in a meaningful and engaging manner rather than through formative assessments. Student input regarding topics to study was solicited with regularity. Innovative thinking and creative teaching was held in high esteem rather than taking a backseat to standards created by bureaucrats. While it was clear that I was navigating through uncharted waters, what I was really doing, was watching 21st Century Literacy Skills in action long before Y2K was even a colloquialism!
The image above, displayed in the back of an old scrapbook, was created by a student from that first class. The photos and writing, given to me on the last day of the school year, show evidence of the powers of observation revealed through transformation and humor. She writes, “Then there is her work or serious side. I remeber (sic) when she afraid (sic) to go near a computer. But at the endshe (sic) is typing away. Work Work Type Type.
Students educated in an environment rich in exploratory learning, supported by authentic technological experiences, actively processes that there are many mediums through which to show evidence of learning. As a veteran teacher, to lead by example means sharing with the adult learners in my life. How I use technology for organization, research, and communication extends to include social media. Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads, is the medium through which I communicated ideas during the last five years. Blogging now adds a vibrant dimension to the way in which I interact with others.
I am as excited about this new adventure as I was overly 20 years ago when I first encountered technology in the classroom. The medium has certainly changed; however, the message is still as vibrant as ever!