Don’t Get Caught With Your Paradigm Down

Back in the Day

I’ve been teaching for twenty years which is hard for me to believe. I still remember my first year like it was yesterday. I think this is due to some form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder…or should I say PTFYTD (Post Traumatic First Year Teaching Disorder). Nothing was networked, real-time or digital. My gradebook was the traditional greenish spiral notebook and my lesson plans were handwritten. I sent a paper attendance slip to the office every morning. To this day I remember circling the month on the bottom of the slip and being so happy when I could start circling June…the year was almost over!

The Reality of Now

Jump ahead twenty years and our world is radically different. Technological changes are increasing exponentially. Our schools are networked and full of computers. Students are proficient with an endless array of gadgets. My grading, lesson plans and other administrative duties are all digital and connected. That’s just the beginning of my digital school life. I’m fortunate enough to have led several  1:1 programs with all my students having various devices. The use of web 2.0 sites, social media and a zillion other technology tools for both teaching and productivity is common.

All this technological change can make your head spin! Even I sometimes long for the paper attendance slip!

Teacher Training

Now let’s look at teacher training in the digital age. For about 200 years, since the introduction of the blackboard in 1801, education in America has been relatively static and so has professional development. Phases come and go and we all attended professional development workshops which were promptly forgotten. Does everyone remember going to Cooperative Learning workshops? How about Whole Language seminars or Total Quality Management applied to education? Old ways of continuing teacher education just won’t do. We can’t be effective educators in the exponential times we live in unless we develop a new paradigm of professional development.

Don't Get Caught with Your Paradigm DownAs an educator, how do you keep up? How do you make sure you can meet the needs of your 21st Century Students and not get caught with your paradigm down? Let’s make a personal action plan.

First, all teachers need to know how to teach online. Students are going to be taking more and more online classes as part of their k-12 education. It’s going to happen and we need to be ready. Math class will no longer be an event that happens Monday through Friday at 9:30…it will happen anytime, anywhere. For your next professional development or continuing education credits, seek out conferences and or classes that train teachers to teach online.

Next, don’t take my word for it. Read some books (or more likely, download to your portable reader) about the change coming. Here are a few suggested titles. Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns by Clayton Christensen. The New Division of Labor: How Computers Are Creating the Next Job Market by Frank Levy and Richard J. Murnane. The Rise of the Creative Class Revisited: And How It’s Transforming Work, Leisure, Community and Everyday Life by Richard Florida.

Lastly, change your view of professional development from a once in a while event to ongoing, daily growth. If you only attend professional development once a year, your knowledge will be outdated in about a week! To help you with daily growth, I strongly urge you to start a personal learning network, PLN. There are good posts on this site to help you with that. I can tell you, for a fact, that I learn something to make me a better teacher everyday due to social media and my PLN.

What do you think? Please post your comments below and thanks for visiting the educational technology blog Teach Amazing!