You see, I know this to be true because I had the funeral for the 20th Century Classroom in like 2006. I was there- in person. It was a poignant ceremony; you should have been there with the rest of my sixth grade science students. She helped us out in the beginning of that industrial age, but she just had to be laid to rest, chalk board and all.
To mark the occasion, we took our antiquated science books and kept them on the shelf the entire year, using only online sources. We took the brand new laptop cart that was gathering dust in the hallway (because no one knew how to use them), and I put all of my lessons online on a Blogger Blog. We did our homework online, and even though I was at a poor school on the South Side, my kids came into the lab before school and after school and did their homework there.
They turned in their homework to me using a classroom management system. I would get emails from them when they were completed. We took our tests online with a very simple online test creation tool. I could export the data into Excel and grade them easily. I started to create all of my lessons using an online version of Power Point called zoho.com. Every day, I didn’t just teach- I faciliated. We used an interactive white board that I got through a grant.
This was 6 years ago.
Six. Years. Ago.
In a poor school on the South Side of Chicago.
Now granted, we all move at different paces. I started teaching later in life, so I had the luxury of never getting locked into any old systems. And, hey, I love using technology- so that didn’t hurt.
However, one thing about being a teacher in the 21st Century that I totally understood: the job never ended at 3pm. The time it took me to self-teach my SMART board skills and set up my online classrooms was enormous. I spent my first 2 years of teaching going to bed at midnight every night and waking up at 5:30am. That’s just the way it was. I loved it and still do. It’s 11:30pm right now.
My naivete about the profession quickly caught up to me in those first couple of years. I learned a harsh fact: this was not the schedule a lot of teachers kept. In fact, many of them went home at 3pm and actually spent time with their families and watched sports and stuff. I realize we all get into the profession at different times and for different reasons. Every teacher, even bad ones, have dreams of “making a difference” in students’ lives. I got into education because I hoped to be a catalyst for changing an antiquated system.
It’s Not the Technology. It’s the Time.
We are now in 2012, and the 21st Century is totally upon us. The 20th Century, to be honest, is not even in the rear view mirror anymore. Blogging, flipped classrooms, iPads, mobile learning- these topics dominate the airwaves of education news and technology blogs. With the announcement of the iBooks textbook initiative by Apple, we are entering a true era of Minority Report-style media consumption.
Seeing that we are actually entering an era that was foretold to us by a movie (for once), let’s try to understand something about all of these new tools: these things cannot be learned within the fair hours of 7am- 3pm anymore. Nor should any teacher ever expect to. Teaching in the 21st Century is, without a doubt, a 24/7 job. The days of punching out are gone. The tools of the trade need to be the tools of life, in order to stay relevant for our students.
When I first started integrating technology with other teachers, I used to think that some teachers were afraid of the technology. But I realize that that’s not where the fear lies. I was totally wrong about that. The fear of going into the 21st Century is that the safe walls of the classroom are leaving. Teachers are afraid to open the door to communication, because once they open that door- there is no turning back. You either become a 21st Century educator- or you’re irrelevant. Make a choice.
No longer can teachers hide in their rooms. Teacher blogging and student email allow for students to contact them any time of the day and all hours of the night. Skype, iPad apps, texting, Edmodo.com, Google+, Twitter- these tools are being woven into teaching by innovative teachers all over, and are being made part of the 21st Century teachers’ practice. You can rest assured that teachers who master these tools and platforms- are integrating these tools into their lives, not just their classrooms.
Taking the time to master these tools is not something that can be done in a 30 minute prep session before school. Mastering the education tools of this century takes a commitment to breaking down the proverbial walls of what a teacher used to be. Mastering these new teacher processes takes letting go of the idea that your day will end when you leave the brick and mortar.
I understand that’s a hard pill to swallow. We’re on a moving train, and sooner or later we all have to decide whether we’re all going to the end of the line, or if we’re going to get off at the next stop.
Do you want to learn about iPads? Get an iPad.
Want to blog with your students? Start a blog already. Start writing, and see what happens. (You may even find out that you’re good at it!)
Want to try Twitter with educators? Start a Twitter account and go here. Follow as many of those educators as you can.
I wish I could say that any one of these things didn’t take a lot of time to master, or that you’ll see more of your children or spouse if you start investigating these because, honestly, you won’t. But mastering these tools is what being part of a 21st Century educator is all about, and being a part of that change is thrilling and entirely fulfilling. I invite anyone to jump in.
So- have you really not said goodbye to the 20th Century yet? What are you waiting for? It’s getting too late to play catch-up.
Image Credit: Top: Yahoo.com, Minority Report: 20th Century Fox