Looking Back, Looking Forward

This will be my last week teaching before I begin maternity leave. I’m definitely looking forward to my new adventure as a mum but know there will be a lot I will miss about being in the classroom.

In packing up my classroom to make way for the new teacher, it has been interesting to think about what is worth storing for my future teaching career, and what is obsolete.

I have been at the same school for almost a decade. The world has certainly changed, education has changed and I have changed as a teacher.

At this stage, I don’t know whether I’ll be back teaching in a short while or a long while. What teaching resources will be important or useful in the future? I do not know. What I do know is that many items I previously valued now have no use in the classroom.

I’m not a hoarder. I find it liberating to get rid of things I no longer need and I subscribe to the notion that a cluttered environment leads to a cluttered mind.

I’m trying to be ruthless in condensing 9.5 years of resources into two or three plastic storage tubs.

One of the main things I’m disposing of is worksheets.

There was a time when I relished the challenge of making a “good” worksheet. I used to take pride in my folders, carefully organised into curriculum areas and topics.

It seems so obvious now but it took me years to realise that worksheets don’t feature heavily in an effective, modern classroom.

While there is always a place for recording of information etc. on paper, the “busy work” that I used to love to set now makes me cringe!

It is clear to me that hands-on, authentic, collaborative, open-ended tasks have a much bigger impact on students than a prescribed worksheet.

I wonder if this viewpoint will be more widespread when I return to the classroom. At the moment I still see photocopiers in high demand by many teachers.

Similarly, I have been asked countless times for “sheets” when a student is absent or going on holidays. Many parents seem to value worksheets as the key to education and see classroom education as easily replaced by paper work.

Other reflections on what is important now and in the future:

  • Ideas and resources are always available:  I can use Twitter, blogs and other online tools to brainstorm or source the ideas and resources I need in the future. I know my international professional learning network (PLN) will always be there. I don’t need to keep an artefact of an idea I had five years ago “just in case”.
  • Digital resources don’t take up space: A lot of what I’ve created for my classroom is housed on my computer or in the cloud.  My work programs used to take up a lot of shelf space. Now I work on them collaboratively with my team via Google Docs. This is just one example of saving physical space and working more effectively.
  • I don’t need to provide it all: The modern classroom is a lot less teacher-led than it was when I began teaching. I don’t need to create all the work, resources or projects. This is something students can do authentically and collaboratively.
  • Prioritising is powerful: I’ve always enjoyed creating a bright and attractive learning environment in my classroom. However, I have come to realise that spending hours on beautiful bulletin board displays isn’t a good use of my time. I’ve had to simplify things over the years to devote more time to avenues that can offer my students amazing outcomes, such as blogging and global projects. I no longer have as many “decorative items” to store and students can play a bigger role in working on their physical learning environment.

I’m excited about what lays ahead both personally and professionally. As for the future of my blog, I’m not signing off completely just yet. While I’m slowing down, I’m going to see what challenges my new life presents before determining whether I still have the inspiration and time to write about education.

But what of now? Tech no logic CC BY-NC-SA http://www.flickr.com/photos/50614315@N05/4970644551

What has become obsolete from your teaching career?

What resources do you think will be most valuable for teachers in the future?

 

A Life Our Students Will Never Know

Over the holidays, while attempting to be less “connected”, I’ve been thinking about how much technology seems to be increasingly infused into our day-to-day lives. With laptops, smart phones, iPads, iPods and other portable devices becoming so common place, gadgets are no longer something we go to, they come with us.

This clearly brings about many pros and cons. Technology lets us connect and access information more easily, however, being hyperconnected can compromise our health and wellbeing. Like many things in life, striking a balance is key.

Sometimes it’s fun to think back and remember how you did things pre internet/mobile/computer. These are experiences our students will never know.

  • Meeting someone for lunch/a movie/a walk/any event outside the house and not being able to let them know if you’re running late, lost or if your plans have changed.
  • Researching a holiday destination by reading a book. Booking accommodation by reading and trusting a small advertisement in a travel guide. Possibly going by recommendations of a small number of friends or family rather than millions of anonymous world travellers. Putting holiday planning in the hands of a travel agent.
  • Keeping up to date with news or weather by purchasing an outdated newspaper or waiting for the television or radio to tell you.
  • Learning almost anything from a valued encyclopedia set. If it wasn’t in there or in a book from the library then sometimes you just didn’t learn it! Maybe you would change the topic of a school project in line with what information you had access to.
  • Keeping in touch with friends or family who lived far away by writing letters and waiting patiently for replies.
  • Taking photos and then waiting perhaps a week or more until you had them processed at a shop. If your photo didn’t turn out well, you wouldn’t know. It was always a blind gamble.
While these tasks seem inefficient now, I don’t remember questioning them. Perhaps we had more time on our hands or didn’t desire a faster paced way of living. Perhaps we didn’t consider what would be possible.

This article reminds us that “there are some major downsides to relying on the Internet as our ‘external brain,’ including the desire for instant gratification, and the increased chances of making ‘quick, shallow choices.’ But researchers also say we networked young people are nimble, quick-acting multitaskers who will do good in the world.”

If the pace of the world is fast, connected and dynamic, then surely the networked, nimble, multitaskers will be those who will succeed now and in the future? Or will they?

Will successful teachers need to be networked, nimble and multitasking too? How do we ensure that we have balance in our fast paced lives and how to do we help students with this?

Many children don’t seem overly interested in hearing about days-gone-by, just as we were sometimes bored by stories of our grandparents as children.

The interesting question will be what stories from the year 2012 will our students take with them when they remind their children and grandchildren about the “ways we used to do things”? What will seem primitive about the way we live our lives now?

What do you think?

How has technology changed your life?