Technology is currently making a huge impact on education. Schools everywhere want to take advantage of opportunities to grow in their application of technology in the classrooms. This sudden wave of interest in technology will create more opportunities in the education sector, particularly for teachers with a technology background. But what about teachers who don’t have this skill or background? There are many ways for teachers to keep up trends like these?
What are the tips for staying relevant?
Watch the trends – New trends become large opportunities when they solve everyday problems. For example, I was introduced to on-line learning in 2000 and I knew it would be a trend that I would need to follow, explore, and try. The problem it was solving was educating working adults who could not attend the campus classes due to conflicting schedules and/or commute. I talked to other professors who were already utilizing the online teaching platform and inquired about how I could do the same. A major example of this is MOOCS (Massive Open Online Courses). Many schools including Stanford, Yale, Harvard, and MIT are joining the trend of offering free courses online. This is an easy way for employees to stay current in their workforce without having to pay tuition or enroll in a degree program or for-credit course s. However, the MOOCs experience is very similar to an actual classroom experience, in that it is engaging and discovery based.
Integrate technology into your classroom. Over the years I have taught a lot of night and weekend college classes. People were very tired. I would bring in my PC and pull up interesting shows that I found on YouTube or TV interviews with key luminaries to illustrate a point for my students. The response I received from my students was extremely positive, so I was motivated to expand my portfolio, learn how to make videos, develop a YouTube channel, etc. Engagement is critical for learning so try using a variety of methods to engage the students.
What do we need to be teaching students in today's society?
A teachers is responsible for showing students how to become life-long learners. In the past, teachers were the focal point of expertise. Today you can find that expertise in the Internet via sites like Wikipedia, Google, Ask.com. It’s the teacher’s responsibility to surround his/her students with resources and avenues so that they can solve evolving problems on their own and be a part of the bigger solution. However, teachers shouldn't just create this environment, they also need to facilitate the discovery process and guide students in using these tools properly in order to achieve meaningful learning. As learning experts, teachers should be inviting of other outside experts if the goal truly is to achieve student outcomes.
Start now by doing some of the following:
- Invest one night a week in online MOOCs or in-person tutoring sessions. It’ll help you overcome the fear of utilizing new technologies. You’ll be surprised by how much you can apply to the classroom, and you’ll soon become a resource for other teachers. There is a lot out there available for free if you want to learn.
- Join groups and peer opportunities. Meet up is a very popular venue for joining groups of common interest. Technology groups are very popular.
- Attend as many professional development opportunities as possible - (usually provided by your school district) Technology-based workshops and presentations are becoming increasingly popular in education. Keep an eye out for local opportunities and ask your school administration to send you. Schools love it when their teachers further their education via formal or professional training.
- Keep up with education journals and blogs. Here's where you get ideas from other educators that work. Expose yourself to what's out there so that you can introduce these new ideas to your school. Being innovative is very valuable.
- Exchange ideas with other teachers. Teachers Pay Teachers is a great tool for getting and sharing lessons and creative ideas. It's also a unique way to generate some extra income while doing what you love.
- Update your curriculum every year - Many teachers use the same materials and processes year after year, but use the summer break to update your practices.
With all of the new technologies available, teachers have a lot to learn and even more to teach their students. However, these are exciting opportunities for professional growth. It’s easier to teach you students how to be life-long learners when you are one yourself.