Teaching Today: One Teacher’s Perspective from Hong Kong

 

 

OUR FUTURE IS YOUR OLD AGE

OUR FUTURE IS YOUR OLD AGE (Photo credit: infomatique)

Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.

Stephen Hawking

 

 

 

Today, knowledge is everywhere.

My international school students access educational videos, tutorials and simulated learning. They realize early on that I am not the end all, be all, and that they can just as easily, and more creatively, find knowledge on their own. Why watch me struggle with an answer when they can easily go to http://www.Brainpop.com?

 

Essentially, my traditional professional life has ended and is not coming back. Just last week, our school’s librarian (another profession on the ropes?) passed out Kindles for the teachers. My students already have mastered eBooks and are waiting for me. I have ridden the waves of educational technology and even I am having a difficult time keeping up. I foresee the day when my classroom is devoid of any books whatsoever. (Perhaps within the next twelve months!)

 

My students have little need for traditional learning. They beg to use Google docs and back channel websites such as TodaysMeet so that they can collaborate and learn together. They beg to play math games online. Who am I to stop them from learning this way? They demand that I let them learn in learning pairs or trios.

 

Everyday, supervisors judge me on how engaged my students seem. I know that the students are trying to focus but oftentimes they wait for me to stop talking so they can go back to learning their way. I do not blame them in the least.

 

It is scary how fast their world is moving. Due, in part to this, my confidence in my teaching ability is low. I remain optimistic about their future and I do see tangible positive results. However, my days as a teacher are dwindling; at least, the classroom teacher that I have always recognized.

 

When I was their age, Cape Cod was a journey. My students give each other tips on how to deal with jet lag.  I used to memorize world capitals, while they visit them. At their age, I was reading Encyclopedia Brown; they are comparing the internal and external traits of the many characters in Harry Potter. I helped my teacher thread film into a projector. They are creating brain-friendly presentations and asking me how to embed video. When I was ten, I didn’t even know the meaning of the word, “embed.”

 

Each teacher and parent is struggling with change. What gives me hope is curriculum development. Curriculum is best when it rewards innovation and collaboration to solve real problems. I see a near future where curriculum builds on the students’ energy and wish to make their world better. I see schools changing to fit the needs of students and not our misconceptions of what they need to learn. I have been able to give my students snippets of Challenge-Based Learning. During these times, I never once need worry about student engagement.

 

Essentially,teaching is redefined each year. I accept this as fact and give up thinking that traditional teaching practices work.

 

Am I the only teacher that feels this way?

 

 

 

 

 

Rethinking Education

education

education (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

After reading Rethinking Education in the Age of Technology by Allan Collins and Richared Halverson, I am left with many more questions than answers. The following is a sample of my written notes from the margins of my copy. I highly recommend this book.

We have experienced the knowledge explosion. The dust settled. Can we evolve, adjust and survive?

Have computers extended the human mind beyond the limits of even the finest teachers?

Is technology disrupting local community building?

Are today’s schools mostly knowledge factories where one attempts to learn what “very esteemed thinkers” believe necessary to prosper?

Will we build schools that respect the students’ innate curiosity and need for solving real-life problems? Will we change only when we start losing our client base?

Will we create an environment where we celebrate failure as a sign of pure learning?

Will we allow students to roam freely between learning spaces? Will we trust students to take control of their own learning?

Can we create schools that create organizations and systems that enhance, rather than stifle, innovation?

Am I part of the problem?

Can we recognize and celebrate all that we are already doing to satisfy our students’ far-reaching demands?

Will we allow parents and students back into curriculum development and implementation?

Are we teaching all students successfully? Can we afford to let our students live a life of confinement until they leave high school?

Can we name and end the barriers of learning?

With improved educational leadership, can the need for classroom management be a thing of the past?

Can all teachers be allowed to inspire?

So many of my students are competitive, scared and lacking confidence. Am I allowing my kids to make the most of their time in the classroom?

Can we continue to teach curriculum that we know is out of sync with what students need to know?

Can we create a system that respects students right to question and investigate their own answers?

How much of my work day is bureaucracy of one form or the other?

Why is school attendance still compulsory? Why can’t kids learn from home?

Why are kids graded by age? Never, in the past year, have I been in a room filled with fellow forty-five year olds.

Why are teachers’ editions of textbooks still used in school?  Why is so much of the school day dedicated to tradition, behavior control and consistency?

How come students, parents and teachers do not write report cards collaboratively? Why aren’t all students on an Individualized Education Plan?

Why are Middle and High Schools such pressure cookers?

Can we accept that students are much more tech-savvy and more understanding of the adult world than we are wiling to believe?

Can we pay teachers to pursue their own personalized learning?

Can we allow for more project-based curriculum?

Can we accept that a culture of lifelong learning is what we all need to survive?

Can educational gaming and simulations become more of the day-to-day instruction and not a distraction to avoid at all costs?

Will alternative certificates and “badges” replace standard issue, high school diplomas?

Is High School already an anachronism?

Again, I urge all to read this book.  Your students will thank you.

Reference:

Collins, A., & Halverson, R. (2009). Rethinking education in the age of technology. New York and London: Teachers College Press

  

Image from Google Images