Teachers Struggling to Change

Here is an excerpt from an article by Jay Ashcroft. It is worth reading his entire article.

“Over the last 100 years in teaching, how much has changed? Could you take a teacher from 1915 and drop them into a modern classroom? Apart from the strange haircuts and unfamiliar clothes they’d barely notice the difference, because the majority of school is still lecture driven. The teacher stands at the front, disseminating knowledge to the students. Now undertake the same scenario but with a surgeon. Bring a surgeon forward 100 years and it’s a different story. In a modern operating room our time traveler would be overwhelmed with sights and sounds. This is because technology has revolutionized surgery.” – Jay Ashcroft

I wouldn’t trust a doctor that has not found new techniques to improve their craft in the past 30 years. Nor would I take my car to a mechanic who did not embrace the changes to automotive technology in the past 30 years.

As new technologies emerge we need to take advantage of them and see how they can help us do our job better. When we all have access to the world’s information at our fingertips, can teachers change what they do to take advantage of that? Do we really need to lecture and have students take notes? Is that really the best way to teach students today?

We know from research that students learn best when they WANT to learn. If teachers can motivate the students to want to learn then real learning and deep understanding can occur.

The same holds true for adults. We really only learn something when we WANT to learn. We need proper motivation to learn something new. Sometimes we are forced, like when the province goes to provincial report cards with certain expectations regarding comment writing.

The best learning occurs when we WANT to learn. The question is, “How can we get teachers to want to learn about teaching more effectively in today’s world?” As teachers, we believe one of the goals of education is to help students become life long learners. Are teachers modelling that behavior? Are teachers embracing new ideas or rejecting change?

Where does the motivation come from to learn something new? From inside. Not from external factors. Teachers need to WANT to learn, just like students.


What is Best for Students?

As teachers, we all want what is best for students. What we cannot agree on is what IS best for students. Here are my views.

  1. Student Centered Inquiry approach is preferable to a Teacher centered approach. For more information on Inquiry from Alberta Education: http://education.alberta.ca/media/313361/focusoninquiry.pdf
  2. Students need to develop 21st century learning skills of creative thinking, critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, communication, digital literacy, and global awareness.
  3. Students need to be prepared for their future, not their past. They need digital literacy skills.
  4. Learning Pyramid – students retain information best when they interact with it and teach it to others.
  5. Give students a voice. We know that autonomy is valued in the workplace and in school. People want to have a choice in what they do, when they do it, who they do it with, and how they do it. Sense of belonging and that your voice matters increases engagement.
  6. Kids Learn Differently and have different strengths – Variety – don’t use the same approach for every topic. Vary teaching approach for different styles.
  7. We need to connect what students are learning with the real world. (Teach about ancient Egypt to understand present day Egypt) (Teach about cell structure and relate it to diseases like cancer or Bird Flu) (Teach about Of Mice and Men and achieving the American Dream, then have students talk about present day American dream)
  8. Teachers who are enthusiastic and passionate about what they teach.

Students want to get out of their seat. They want visuals. They want choice and variety. They want to have more voice in their education.

What Changes in Education with the Device in Everyone’s Pocket?


Of all of the developments throughout history, the Internet-enabled mobile device has had the greatest opportunity for impact on the educational system. At one time information was in libraries or in schools in the form of books or in the minds of teachers. Students went to libraries or schools to learn new information.

Now the world’s information is everywhere in everyone’s pocket. I remember in high school math class the teacher would not let us use a calculator. For some mysterious reason we were allowed to use a slide rule. (Shows you how old I am). “You’re not going to carry a calculator with you wherever you go”, was the comment we got from our math teacher.

Not only do I have a calculator with me at all times, it can convert units of currency and measurement, point me to North, level a table, organize me, replace my camera, help me when I am lost, tell me the time, record my voice, let me practice a musical instrument, paint or draw a picture, play my entire library of music, create a video, show video, give me my news, store my reading library, and teach me anything I want to know.

If a student had access to all the information the Internet contains in their pocket, and a tool that could do all of the above and more, how would teaching be different? In some cases we have brush-fires of innovative teachers exploring different approaches to teaching. We need to fan the flames of these brush-fires and help them to grow into full blown wildfires.


The Importance of Technology in our Student’s Future


There are parents and teachers that believe we are over emphasizing technology with our students. They fear that students will lose cursive writing, spelling, and grammar. I think we need to hold on to some things from our past, but we need to let go of others. Do I see a future where our students will need to know how to spell and use grammar correctly? YES! Do I see a future where cursive writing will be important? I am not so sure.

The creative, high-level thinking jobs of the future will all require computer skills. In the near future, everything will be digital. We need to prepare our students for the world of today and tomorrow, not yesterday. Check out this blog posting by Scott McLeod to see more details on this topic. His last point is interesting. See below:

[School board member], you say that putting technology into the hands of all students is ‘not the way to go.’ Which students get to use technology, then? Which students get to be prepared for the world as it is and will be (and which ones don’t)? Which students are you going to intentionally disadvantage by hobbling their college and career readiness by removing technology from their hands?  -Scott McLeod