What an amazing decade it has been! It is with a fair amount of amazement that I look back on the classroom of 2000 and compare it with the work that I do now. Ten years ago, it was not only the tools that were different; it was the way I thought about my job as a teacher. I had been teaching for years, in the classroom and homeschooling. I felt comfortable and competent in my career. I understood kids and the skills and information that they were supposed to learn in my classroom. It was a time when I knew what I needed to accomplish my job, and I felt secure in being able to help the students in my class.
It was a paper and pencil, chalkboard world. I had a desktop computer, that I used strictly for word processing, mostly creating worksheets. The students had no access to computers in school. In truth, I wouldn’t have known what to have them do on computers, even if they had had them. The world of digital tools was still completely foreign to me and to most educators. Most of the tools that I use today simply didn’t exist then. If the students had had computers, they would simply have been for word processing, because that was all that I knew to do with them.
Over the course of the decade, I was given new tools, tools that challenged me to figure them out and then figure out what use they could be to my students. From desktop computers to SmartBoards to laptop carts to 1:1 programs, each step has provided me and other teachers with an opportunity to grow and learn. That is the awesome choice that has confronted educators this decade. With each new tool and each new way of learning, we have had to leave our former security and venture into the unknown. For me, the lesson of the first decade of the 21st century is that change is now a part of life. If I want to provide the best education for my students, who live in a digital world, I must make an ongoing commitment to grow. New learning has become a perpetual requirement for good teachers. We simply can not expect that what we did before is all that our students will need.
While they still need much of what we taught before: study skills, control over information, self-expression, effective reading, there is now more. It is our job to teach them these while also making sure they learn how to be effective and ongoing learners, ones who are not going to stop growing with a good grade or degree, but ones who will move into the future with the skills needed to adapt and grow, to create and build in the world. Educators need to make it our goal for the next decade to model how to be that kind of learner, demonstrating a love of our subjects and a love of learning that will be hopefully be contagious.
Happy New Year!