I am astounded on a regular basis at how much I get done. I am astounded by how much my job demands of me, how much my learners demand of me, it never seems to end, and yet it all gets done. Why? Because of technology.
I can do MORE with technology. I can create MORE easily with technology. I can teach MORE clearly with technology. I can learn MORE with technology. I can communicate MORE with technology. But like everything there is a cost.
People expect MORE from me now that technology is ubiquitous. MORE time, MORE emails, MORE work. But try imagining productivity levels without it. You probably can’t, I can’t. Yes I feel like I’m going at a million miles an hour but would that really change if it was all taken away? I don’t mean being on a holiday without technology, I mean the workplace, school, they are and always will be busy places. Technology hasn’t made them more so, just more productive. We can do more in less time, we can reach more students, teach more effectively, but only if done in the right way.
In my classroom I teach students, presently those students are young boys who will be the men and leaders of tomorrow. I don’t just teach them Mathematics, I try to connect with them, inspire them, engage them, excite them and model for them how to be an honest, authentic and caring human being. The world they in which they live, and will work, is changing at an ever-increasing rate, and I feel it is our duty as educators to model best-practice with technology use. It shouldn’t matter which subject discipline we teach I believe we should be teaching and working with real world technology that allows for skills to be learned in safe environments, where mistakes can be made and learned from, reflected on and more risks taken. As teachers we need to be risk takers as well and model this for our learners.
In previous posts on this blog I outline my teaching philosophy and experiences. As a Mathematics educator I know acutely the challenges faced by learners who don’t have fluency with basic maths skills. “Prerequisite skills must be applied quickly and without conscious effort in order to be most useful.” (Roblyer, 2016). Skills such as times tables and simple mental arithmetic are essential language skills of mathematics that are best learned via direct instruction and the behavioural repetition strategies of Gagne (1982). And this is where Mathematics teachers get a bad wrap – just because we still favour (and inherently know!) that these strategies work – we get labeled obstructionist not just behaviourists. The latest 21st century skills movements which advocate for inquiry based learning or project based learning, the constructivist approaches of Piaget, often see Mathematics educators as dragging the chain. However I would argue we were some of the first adopters of educational technology. The drill and skill, the online mathematics games of the 80’s and early 90’s, even today online tools like http://www.mangahigh.com illustrate the staying power of mastery learning concepts in Mathematics.
But we must do MORE. It is not enough to just demonstrate mastery of a skill or set of skills, we must teach our learners to integrate them and construct new knowledge. I, like many others I’m sure, teach using multiple learning theories, and don’t espouse that one is better than another.
I aspire to have students graduate from my classrooms with the digital skills and literacy to continue learning for life. I want them to be creators of new knowledge and digital explorers for the 22nd century. I want them to have the confidence in their abilities and the collective wisdom of the global citizenry together to make the world a better place.
Gagne, R. (1982). Developments in learning psychology: Implications for instructional design. Educational Technology, 22(6), 11-15
Roblyer, M. D.. (2016). Integrating educational technology into teaching. (7th Ed). Allyn & Bacon