In 2008, I read Clayton Christensen’s Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns. It inspired me to think about changes in education that would benefit students by transforming teaching and learning and I was excited about the possibilities. Technology advancements promised to make a great impact to initiate change in the classroom, but now we are faced with a newer set of obstacles.
Eleven years later, as I walk through the halls in a middle school/high school setting, I see students sitting on a tile floor crowded around a device trying to type, communicate, take videos, and record their voices with background noise and distractions often interrupting their progress. This happens all over the country in traditional educational buildings today. Students are assigned a tech-integrated project and are faced with limited resources and inadequate workspaces to use the latest tools. So how are we supporting change?
Obstacles for teachers who are trying to engage learners during change
Teachers are diligently meeting state standards while covering course content and using technology to address collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creativity. They are hoping to teach their subject area while enhancing lessons, developing assessments, and engaging students in a more personalized manner. They are trying to contribute to change, disrupt their classes, reach all learning types, and prepare learners for the latest careers. But is the existing standard school building an effective environment for teaching and learning today? It’s no surprise that many teachers are hesitant to assign project-based and technology-integrated lessons knowing that the physical state of the building doesn’t support their efforts.
To keep current, teachers are required to participate in professional development and are faithfully adapting their curricula to include STE(A)M and social skills that are a necessity in the workforce. Yet, in a majority of areas, the infrastructure doesn’t cooperate. A teacher could have an outstanding lesson using technology, but if the wi-fi is slow, the hardware and/or software unavailable, or there’s a lack of space to communicate and collaborate, then teaching and learning becomes a difficult and frustrating practice.
Throughout history there has always been the suggestion that students should take “college prep” courses to gain acceptance to college. The promise was that this path would result in entry to a specific career. Yet we now find that students are lacking in some of the softer skills that are needed in an age of technology innovation. The resources and tools once used in the classroom have changed and the environment in which students gathered to learn is transforming into a more personalized, high-tech and collaborative space. Education is moving beyond the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic and is surpassing skills assessment through standardized testing. Sitting in rows and facing front is no longer the best option for students to participate in the classroom. The venue now requires students to focus on content with available resources to integrate lifelong skills and share their voices in a global community.
So how do educators deal with the pressure of giving students the appropriate background and skills for the future while our system relies heavily on the concept of grades and test scores to gain access to college? Should we be preparing our students for college coursework or future careers?
How can we prepare students for the future?
It begins with supporting the “change.” When I mention change, I am not suggesting that we change the content that students are learning. I am referring to changing the way in which that content is absorbed by the learners and providing all the necessary resources to accommodate teachers and students.