Monday, June 16, 2008

How has technology affected my students, my classroom, and my teacher professionalism?

When I read the first three paragraphs of The Teachers Mission, quoted below, I had to give a brief but hearty “Amen!”
In many schools across our nation teachers feel that their opinions about what and how to teach are ignored. Others, far removed from the classroom, make decisions on how teachers are trained, what tools they use in their classroom, and the methods that work best with children.

Teachers are introduced each year to a plethora of educational buzz words. They are expected to cover the curriculum at a pace to accommodate multiple classroom abilities that may have ranges as extreme as eight grade levels. They are expected to practice classroom management skills coping with special needs along with those of their regular students and nurturing all at the same pre-set pace.

Adding to this work load are state, local, and district standards for learning, state competency testing, new technology standards for students and teachers, and constant pressure from government officials, parents, and even religious groups to improve education, reform the classroom, and better develop our nation’s children. As many as half of all new teachers respond by leaving the profession finding more pay and less stress elsewhere.

This has been the case in my experience, particularly in my Communication Arts classroom, which is why I jumped at the opportunity to move into the Technology teaching position. As a radical constructionist, who strongly believes in providing an authentic experience for students where they “think critically, solve problems, analyze sources, make good judgments. gather, sort, internalize, and share information with others” (The Teacher's Mission). As I made the transition from a class centered on PSSA Preparation to one built around multimedia authoring, Internet research, online collaboration, and desktop publishing, I experienced a welcome role-shift from what I had been so uncomfortable with in my CA classroom since the NCLB change back to the complex, multi-faceted role of Radical Teacher. I've never been able to succinctly capture this role in language. Typically, I have referred people to multiple articles and resources on the web by people like Alfie Kohn. As I read the material from Simkins, Cole, Tavalin, and Means (2002), I was provided with a very accurate word picture of what it is I do, or at the very least attempt, in the classroom, which is more than guide on the side. Incidentally, they did not have a magical term to sum this up, but rather triangulated the position of this concept by attacking it from multiple sides.