The problem with writing about technology is that by the time I pick some specific form of technology, tell you how to implement it with students in your classroom, and ways it will make your students better 21st century learners, that technology might already be obsolete. That is how fast technology is moving in our world. We have come a long way from using cassette tapes and floppy disks but it has been in such a short time. If you have a computer or a cell phone that is more than five years old, the manufacturers probably don’t make accessories or have support for it anymore. The point is, technology is constantly changing and thus as a result, you must constantly be changing how you use it in your classroom to keep up with it.
The top ten jobs in the world right now according to CareerCast, October 2016, are:
- Data scientist
- Information security analyst
- Diagnostic medical sonographer
- Software engineer
- Computer systems analyst
- Speech pathologist
How many of these jobs require technology? Probably all of them. More importantly, how many of these jobs existed ten years ago? Five years ago? The problem with learning a specific technology is that by the time you get through college and are ready to put it to use, it might not be used any longer.
You will notice that there are no so-called blue-collar jobs listed here. The major reason for this is that technology has created programs, machinery, and robotics that can do a lot of these types of jobs. An example would be the workers who are directing traffic when construction has made the road only one lane. Two workers stand on the ends of the work area, one with a stop sign, the other with a slow sign. They coordinate letting a few cars through one direction and then they flip their signs, letting cars from the other direction proceed. Seems like a colossal waste of manpower. I was driving through one of those work areas the other day and instead of having these two bodies whose sole purpose is to turn their signs around in coordination every few minutes, they had a machine set up that indicated when cars could go. Schools, which were originally set up to create workers such as this, need to change with the times. How do we prepare students for this world when it is for jobs that do not even exist yet? By teaching them how to think and adapt to technology.
In order for this to happen, teachers need to be willing to learn the newest technology and incorporate it into their classrooms, and when that technology is no longer relevant, learn the next newest technology and teach using that. Much like a doctor who must keep up on the advances in his practice in order to be an effective physician, teachers must keep up with their practice in order to effectively teach students.
How does a teacher keep up with technology? Here are five suggestions that might help:
- Learn from your students – your students are the best trainers for technology. Many have grown up with an iPad thrust in their hands practically at birth and have adapted to changing technology as though it is just a way of life. Ask them what technology they are using, what new trends are out there, and how it can be applied to their studies.
- Choose just one or two pieces of technology – the idea here is not that you expose your students to every type of technology that is out there. The idea is that you teach them how to learn to use any technology. If you try to incorporate too many technologies in the classroom, you and the students might become overwhelmed. Better just to focus on a couple.
- Constantly reevaluate the technology – a good teacher is a reflective teacher. Every time you use technology for a particular unit, you should ask yourself was this the most effective way to learn the lesson? Is there a more updated or better technology that could have been used?
- Don’t be content – there is a saying, “If you want to be on the cutting edge, don’t sit down.” If you have gone three or four years using the same technology you are comfortable with, make yourself uncomfortable and use something new. Your ability to adapt to new technology will rub off on your students and give them the skill as well.
- Find a trusted source – whether it is your technology department, Twitter, a colleague, or your tech savvy next door neighbor, find a source that is vetting a lot of the technology so that you don’t have to. This way you only have to explore a handful of new technology instead of the hundred and thousands that are out there.
Technology is a wonderful thing but many fall into the trap of thinking technology will do everything for us. Technology is supposed to be a tool, not the end all be all. Finding the right technology to use will require you to adapt as a teacher and consider how that technology aids learning.