Monday, November 18, 2013

Paradigm Shift

If we are to truly become 21st century educators, then we may need to surrender some of our archaic methods of instruction and meet today's 21st century student/learner in their experience.  For some, this will involve a paradigm shift not only in our thinking, but in our instructional practice as well.  I don't use the term archaic in a cutting or derogatory manner, but in its true sense of being historically outdated, not meeting the needs of today's experience.  I make that statement being an educator and citizen that has had a difficult time transitioning to the high technology lifestyle that is now our common experience.  I still carry a notepad and mechanical pencil in my handbag.  When a car rear ended me 5 years ago, I pulled out pencil and paper to start taking down the offender's information.  My then 11 year old suggested I take pictures with my phone.  This was a novel idea to me, but was perfectly normal and par for the course for my children growing up in this technologically advanced world.

It will take much effort on my part to fully embrace the meaning of and place of technology in today's classroom.  But I must be committed to this journey in order to ensure that I am truly providing a 21st century education to the wonderful children in my charge day after day.  I am ready.  iPads in our classrooms are just the beginning, and what an incredible resource they are.  Attending the EdTechTeacher iPad Summit in Boston this past week, enlightened my thinking and opened the floodgates to my better understanding why it is so important to see iPads as more than a sophisticated tool to use in place of pencils, papers and folders.  Yes, the iPad can be a valuable tool for teachers to gather information about our students and review and assess their progress.  We can create digital portfolios which children can carry with them always.  Students can master the numerous educational apps available, take photos and make iMovies.  But what has struck a chord with me is this idea that an iPad can take anyone, anywhere, global.  There is exposure to the greater world and connections are formed to our global family.  We have equal access to information as people around the world make their knowledge public via the World Wide Web.  Typing this phrase (www) just gave me a little chill as I finally grasp the magnitude of its meaning.  Where have I been all this time??

We have become a globally accessible community, and mobile devices have provided this accessibility at our very fingertips.  My students and I may never visit the first graders in a classroom in Peru, but we can read and write a book together using the apps Subtext and Book Creator.  When students are curious about something, instead of heading to the library to grab an encyclopedia, they are suggesting we "Google it."  Blogging and Twitter feeds reach thousands of people whose thoughts and ideas spark dialogues that lead to the sharing of even more thoughts and ideas.  We have access to people and information around the world!

The benefits from global sharing of ideas and knowledge are too numerous to list.  If our goal as educators is to help our 21st century students become thirsty learners, critical thinkers and globally connected citizens, why then would we not shift our curricula and instructional methods into the 21st century as well?  Just a thought...

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