Shifting Teachers' Thinking — Focusing on Learning First
- Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8, 9–12
Imagine a school with children who can read and write, but with teachers who cannot, and you have a metaphor of the Information Age in which we live.
How do you predict the future? People have been trying to do this since the beginning of recorded history. As educators, we are trying to prepare our students for their future — a future that is unknown. It is time for us as educators to shift our thinking and teaching from the way of the past to the way of the present, in order to prepare our students for the way of the future.
This year I am part of a large committee that is tasked with writing our district's new technology plan. In this plan we define our goals for learning and teaching with technology for the next five years. I am fortunate to work on this team with a variety of individuals ranging from assistant superintendents down to actual students and parents. All of us have a passion for giving our students the best education we can.
Teachers' Thinking About Technology
We're finding that the biggest barrier to technology integration is teachers' thinking about technology. Many teachers approach technology from a tools-perspective first and then try to make the learning fit the tool.
I get comments from teachers all the time saying that they really want to “start using more technology.” They mention the tools they have and ask what they can do with them. This question, coming from a tools-first perspective, is an extremely difficult one for me to answer.
From experience I have found that this thinking has to be shifted. Technology integration needs to begin by thinking about the learning and teaching, not about the tools. For example, instead of talking about the technology they have and asking how to use it more, teachers should talk about the learning difficulties their students are having. Once this is defined, there are so many ways of using technological tools to work on those difficulties.
Students Speak Out
It is always extremely interesting listening to the students on our committee. They give us a unique insight and represent an important voice. After all, we are all here to educate them and prepare them for their future. In a discussion the other night, for instance, the students showed that they understood many teachers’ difficulties with integrating technology. They voiced a hope that teachers would allow them to assist them with technology. Basically the kids were asking to be a part of their education. They were asking to be able to create and use their world to learn. They want the teacher to take the role of facilitator and let them be more in charge of their learning. These students shared that they use so many tools at home for learning and are not able to use most of them in the classroom setting.
Shifting to a Learning-First Perspective
Why is so much of education still as it was long ago? It used to be that students went to school to open up and learn about their world. Now students have to power down and close off from the world that they are connected to outside of school. Technology has broken down the walls, exposing people to all kinds of unique experiences and connecting people all around the world. Why aren’t we using this more in our classrooms? How can we help teachers shift their thinking to a learning-first perspective? How can we get teachers to be more comfortable with students' taking the lead in their education? What type of support do you need to help with this shift in thinking?
I really would love to hear your responses to these questions as it will assist me in preparing our district’s technology plan. We want to support our teachers while we prepare our students.
Thanks to my good friend Linda Foote for always being willing to have this technology integration conversation and engage in brainstorming sessions with me.
This post is dedicated to my puppy Oreo, who has spend countless hours by my feet supporting and inspiring me as I worked. You are so loved and greatly missed, my baby.