This Is A Great Time To Be A Teacher

ACS_Learning_Spaces

For the purposes of this blogpost the political football that is education has been ‘kicked’ to one side.

Choice. A frequently used word when talking about pedagogy in 2013. The options available to teachers and their learners are countless. The variation in a child’s school day should be applauded and the engagement with learning is an obvious consequence. This is a great time to be a teacher.

I’m convinced that the way I was taught in the 80’s and 90’s didn’t prepare me particularly well for 21st Century employment. This is not to lay blame at the door of my teachers. They were well equipped with the ‘tools of the trade’ at the time but lesson after lesson was largely filled with note taking. I do remember facts from my schooldays and I was well prepared for the exams. However, few aspects of my classroom learning helped with my post school days. I had very engaging teachers from a presentation point of view, but, on reflection, I don’t remember being challenged frequently. If I’m honest I learnt more from the non-examined areas of school life that allowed me to understand the importance of teamwork, leadership and collaboration.

The last three months of my own teaching career have cemented the opinion that pedagogy is shifting for the better. A change of schools has introduced me to the International Baccalaureate that is streets ahead of its A level counterpart. As well as its breadth and depth the Theory of Knowledge component challenges learners and teachers to think twice about the process in which they are involved. It is so important to our Foundation that every student takes the ToK course in the sixth form even if A levels are their chosen certificate. Indeed upon visiting a 2013 school leaver at Utrecht University it was interesting to note that she believed the ToK course was the most useful aspect of her sixth form learning.

At this point I should state I have moved past the debate of whether tablets or smartphones should be used in the classroom. A tool is just a tool. If you want students to write notes in lesson time and listen to the ‘story’ then a tablet isn’t necessarily worth considering. This is an excellent option for learning in some circumstances and should not be challenged for the sake of argument. However, because of the availability of tablets, we can now change the learning process and vary its components. Five years ago it was virtually impossible to expose learners to the wealth of resources we can now at the touch of a screen. Tablets allow the learner to record video evidence of their science experiment and more importantly their explanation. Tablets provide a platform for real time feedback from every learner. Tablets allow the learner to access multiple resources at their desk in the classroom where appropriate. Tablets allow the learner to collaborate with peers in the classroom, down the hall, across the country and the other side of the world…. you get the idea.

These options are available, where appropriate, in the learning process and are made possible by the technology. As a teacher it is my job to select the right time to use a tool and guide the learner. It has never been easier to challenge a group of students with various stimuli. I am grateful that the technology exists to remove the barriers to the lessons I have always wanted to teach but found impossible to put together. Even a simple back channel (using Twitter or Edmodo) allows students to have a voice where they otherwise might be shy or fearful of asking a simple question. A challenge that every teacher faces. (As an aside it is interesting that the technology that exists to connect our students is having a dramatic effect on teachers. The power of social media to engage, provoke debate and challenge opinion has led to a platform that can only benefit the profession.)

It is a great time to be a teacher because we have the tools available to us that provide increased scope for engagement, stimulation and creativity. It is a great time to be a teacher because there are qualifications available that challenge the exam factory ideal. It is a great time to be a teacher because we are so connected with information and each other that opportunity is presented daily.

It is a great time to be a teacher because we need to learn with our students.

 

About Daniel Edwards
Director of Innovation & Learning at the Stephen Perse Foundation schools, Cambridge, UK (stephenperse.com). Interested in global connectivity for all and risk taking in education. Keen to discuss all aspects of learning and digital strategy. Also @syded06 on twitter.

11 Responses to This Is A Great Time To Be A Teacher

  1. Amanda Prados says:

    My children’s school has rolled out an e learning programme where we as parents make a contribution to charity and my children get an i pad to use at school and home.

    This programme is now being withdrawn under a new head teacher. Is he stuck in his ways and refusing to change or is the I pad in the classroom a passing fad???

    I believe that the blackboard is gone for good and the new interactive whiteboards are a fantastic invention. I also believe that the I pad is the child equivalent.

    Why should we as parents accept this? Anyone’s thought would be appreciated as I am meeting with the new head tomorrow.

    • If their reasons are cost, behaviour or disruption then it isn’t thought through. If the reasons for withdrawing the plan are based on learning then that is a different matter. Good luck.

  2. Wendy says:

    Love your post. I agree my role as a teacher has changed significantly since I began in the late 80s. I too am excited about what the world of education has to offer students and teachers. Now my challenge is to ensure that teachers on my staff share this enthusiasm and appreciate and embrace the changes in education that the recent growth in technology allow.

  3. Edd says:

    If these options truly exist in your school, in your country then I agree that you are indeed expriencing one of the greatest times to be a teacher. In New York State the existence of many of these technologies and pedgogical opportunities merely serves to taunt educators with what could or should be. We are feeling the pressure of rote instruction, rote learning, and a “deeper curriculum” that is constantly being narrowed by excessive testing. For all of the reasons you have mentioned, this certainly COULD be a great time to be a teacher. In reality, in the US, it is a time where teacher professionalism is constantly eroded by resticted choice and prescriptive instructional practices.

  4. Michael says:

    I love the spirit of this post, and I agree there are exciting things happening. However, there are many districts that micromanage, and combined with irrational government policy, leaves teachers with very little options that you mention. Thankfully my current teaching position (career technology in video and graphic design) affords me lots of freedom to incorporate technology and train students to be professional and creative media producers.

  5. shafattack says:

    Great time to be able to teach. Not so for being a ‘teacher’ in the sense of a career. Skill, yes, job, no.

  6. As a vocation, teaching provides a wonderful personal development and self enlightenment opportunity. It has always been a great time for that. As a career choice however, it is not a good time to be a teacher when you consider the amount of input, accountability, responsibility, declining community respect and professional development investment on an empirical level. In comparison to other fields, the profession has eroded as community attitudes and cultural priorities shift.

    Aside from politics, there needs to be institutional change in our social and cultural approach to the teaching profession. Teachers need to be recognised for the important role that they play in the development of the global economy and the growth of the community through the important work they do.

  7. parra67 says:

    Reblogged this on Tales of a trainee teacher and commented:
    A very interesting piece and some food for thought comments too

  8. Pingback: Why Innovate? | dedwards.me

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