We’re All Products of Our Own Personal Learning Experience

We are products of our own personal learning experience. We are products of our environment. What happened to us in our past, what we were exposed to, how we felt about school growing up, all play an important role to how our current beliefs of education are perceived. I do believe perception is reality. Whether as a parent, pundit, educator, or by-standing observer, we all seem to have a strong opinion about how schools today in America should operate. Our own educational and personal experiences guide our outspoken thoughts about schools, teaching and learning.
Last week, Apple announced a revolutionary idea with the launch of iBook Author, iBook 2, and the iTunes U app. While I won’t rehash what each tool does, I do feel compelled to share some thoughts about what this announcement may mean on a broader scale.
A colleague of mine recently shared an article with me by Matt Burns, “iPads And Digital Textbooks Do Not Belong In Classrooms Yet.” Mr. Burns expresses some rather unfortunate points of view to me as an educator. Ideas such as “Make my kids do math drills on paper with a dull pencil. Digitalized learning scares me. I simply do not see the value in it.” These concepts are fraught with misguided information, personal bias, and a true lack of what needs to be happening in our classrooms.


While I also don’t need to remind anyone that our public schools are constantly dissected and branded in the national media as underachieving, and that pundits and observers alike, believe teachers in America are not doing a good job, I keep coming back to the thought that many of these individuals criticizing schools are NOT in our classrooms. These people don’t see the daily successes, the daily struggle to overcome failure, the daily effort to achieve, and the overall incredible passion of students and teachers in school districts across the country.

As an educator, I am appalled at anyone, pundit or not, who believes that attempts to improve the educational process, either through technology or otherwise, should not be researched or implemented, and that the status quo is acceptable. Do they not see the situation our country is in? Do they not realize many other countries have globally surpassed us when it comes to preparing our children for their future? If you are not in the classroom, or in an educational building, how can you be so certain what the best approach is?  If you are not in the classroom, or in an educational building, how do you know?

My answer is, you can’t be certain. And rather than dismiss innovative, creative and forward-thinking ideas, maybe take a step back and evaluate what it is you do know. And then maybe ask yourself, what should I know. And then, hold your breath for a moment; ask yourself, what should I learn.

I am a teacher in the classroom. I am also a video producer for my district, so I take advantage of all opportunities to visit the schools in our district on a regular basis. I travel the country speaking and meeting educators doing amazing things in their classrooms. I see what is happening firsthand, everyday.

But what you may not know is that I personally hated high school. That’s right. Despised it. High school was one of the worst experiences of my life. Some of my dislike towards high school came from my fractured home life. Some of my disapproval came from the school and the type of kids that attended my high school. I most definitely hated doing math with a dull pencil on a piece of paper. That was MY learning experience.

And yet here I am, a college graduate, who took part in two different business career paths following college, in my tenth year in education, advocating and screaming for educational change, innovation, and support for our current students in school. Much like the individual who is born with a health problem, who is inspired to become a doctor, I am a teacher, who has been inspired to advocate for support and positive change in our schools through technology and innovative teaching methods.

These are my opinions and only my opinions. I am filled with success upon success story, of how students excelled and facilitated their own learning through the use of technology. I believe the tools that Apple supports education with, and many other forms of technology, can create a stronger learner. And I’d be happy to bore you with these stories anytime (and sometimes I do.)

It is also my opinion and hope, that anyone who reads or believes in the words of Mr. Burns, takes a quiet step back, evaluates the world around them, and then properly forms an opinion to decide; should we support educational innovation or should we support “the way it’s always been done.”

I am not an expert on all of this new technology. I don’t have all the answers. And I am an advocate for free speech, so by all means say what you will about teachers, schools and education.

Ultimately what I know is this; it will be the passionate teachers, not the tools or technology, who will continue to help students prepare for their world. Yet, if there is available technology to leverage which would enhance the learning process and engage our kids, we would be absolutely careless to dismiss this innovation due to fear, ignorance, or old-fashioned beliefs. And while it is most important to challenge and question process, decisions, and new techniques, it is also paramount to offer constructive support to impact positive change in our public schools.

What will you do? What will you decide? What will you choose?

What do you think?

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