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Te(a)chnology:Teaching21stCenturyStudents

MATCSynthesisPaper

Inpartialfulfillmentoftherequirementsforthe
MasterofArtsDegreeinCurriculumandTeaching
DepartmentofTeacherEducation,MichiganStateUniversity

SarahE.Lerch
PID:A42574741
June17,2016

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WhenIfirstbeganmyclassroomexperienceinmyundergraduatestudies,Ibeganto
researchdifferentteachingquotes,inanefforttoderiveamantrafromit.Ihavealwaysbeena
veryquotedrivenperson,andfinditworksasagreatgoaltoworkfor.Aftersomesearching,I
landeduponaquotefromIgnacioEstrada.Thequotesaidthis,ifachildcantlearnthewaywe
teach,maybeweshouldteachthewaytheylearn.Whilethismaynotinitiallyseemtobean
empoweringormotivatingquotation,itmadeahugeimpactonmeatthetime,andcontinuesto
beagreatreminderofhowIwanttoeducatemyownstudents,andoftenwhyIdonotalways
knowwhattheoutcomeofthesequentialschoolyearwillbe.
Thisquotesoonbecamemypassioninmyteachingpractice.Icontinuallytrytomeetthe
studentswheretheyareachievementlevels,interests,andfriendshipsamongotherthings.By
structuringmyclassroominthismanner,Ihavealwaysbeenluckyenoughtohavestudentswho
areinvestedinthelearningproductstheycreate.Duringmyfirstyearofteaching,Ifoundmyself
withonlyenoughtimetogetmybearings,learnthecurriculum,andgo.Therewasnotmuch
timeforotherinnovativeactivities.Inotherwords,itbecamedifficulttoteachthewaymy
studentsprefertolearn.Aftermyinitialyearofteaching,however,Ifoundthattheeasiestway
tocatertostudentinterestandneedwasthroughtheuseoftechnology.Teachingwith
technologyhasbeenthemosteffectiveandefficientwayformetomeettheneedsandlearning
stylesof21stcenturystudents,toteachthewaythattheylearn.Inaddition,thishasproventobe
quitesuccessfulforcultivatingcuriosityandcreativity.Asaresultofthisdiscovery,Ichoseto
pursueacertificateinEducationalTechnologyaspartofmyworkintheMATCprogramat
MichiganState.

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Myjourneytowardstheintegrationofeducationaltechnologyintomyclassroomcanbe
describedinthreeparts.Thefirst,involvestheignitionofmypassionforthisaspectofteaching.
HowIcametorealizemyenthusiasmforteachingwithtechnology,andwhatmeasuresandsteps
Itookoncediscoveringthisfervor.Thesecondpartdealswithmystruggleswithclassroom
change,anditseffectonmyteachingwithtechnology.Finally,thethirdpartdiscusseswhereI
wantmypassionandteachingjourneytoprogressforthenextpartofmycareer.
PartI
WhenIwasanelementarystudent,computerswereusedforteacherstocheckemail,
showaPowerPointonoccasion,andtypeapaper.ThedaysofiPads,tablets,smartphones,and
laptopswerenotamongusyet.AsIgotolder,theinternet,texting,andsocialmediaallbecame
moreprevalentinmypeergroup.Still,technologicaldevicesandprogramswerenot
commonplaceintheclassroom.ItwasnotuntilIenteredcollegethatIbegantoseetheusageof
laptopsandonlineclassroomsusedfrequently.Inthelastfiveyears,educationaltechnologyhas
takenhugesteps,andgainedimmensepopularity.Duetothis,newinstructionalpositionshave
surfaced.ItwasduringmysecondyearofteachingthatItookonanewresponsibilitywith
regardtoeducationaltechnology.Mypositionwasasupplementtomyclassroom,andIwould
beconsideredatechnologycoachformybuilding(Standard6).Initially,Irecallfeelingsof
empowermenthereIwasinjustmysecondyearintheclassroomwithanentirelynew
responsibility.Inpositionslikethisone,Ifindgreatardorinseekingoutasmuchinformationas
possible.IimmersedmyselfinasmanyopportunitiesasIcouldtobuildaknowledgebaseandto
trulybecomedigitallyfluent,orliteratemyself,soIcoulddemonstratethatformystudentsand

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peers(Standard5,6Goal2,3).Inaddition,aroundthesametime,IenrolledintheEducational
TechnologycertificateprogramwithintheMATCdegree.
Aspartofmyenthusiasmformycertificateprogram,Ibegantoseekouteverynew
opportunityrelatingtotechnology,andwasintroducedtoaprogramcalled21Things4
Teachers.Thisorganizationprovidesamodulebasedcourseforteacherstofamiliarize
themselveswithtechnologytoolssuchasalaptoportablet,aswellasprogramslikeGoogle
Docs.Atthispointinmyteachingcareer,Ithoughtmyselftobefairlyinformedofallthings
educationaltechnology,butwasincrediblyhumbleduponenteringintothiscourse.Afterseveral
modulesofintroductorycontent,Istumbledforthefirsttimeinmylearningofnewcontent.
Neverhavingbeenfacedwithachallengeinthetechnologyfieldbefore,thispredicamentwas
notmetwiththesameeagernessasinpreviousencounterswiththistopic.
Increatingmysecondartifact,my21Things4Teachersblog,Ihadtocreateapost(a
commonassignmentforthecourse)foreachmodule.Forthisfirsttechnologicaldifficultyof
mine,IcommentedonthechallengesIfaced,eventhoughIoriginallythoughtIwouldnavigate
thetoolwithease(Artifact2Standard4,5,6Goal2,3).Whatwasincrediblyrewardingabout
thisexperienceinparticulartomyjourneywastheinputIreceivedfrompubliccritiqueofmy
blogbymyteachingpeers,asseenincommentsalongthesideofthedocument.
While21Things4Teachersmadeasignificantimpactonmyteaching,itwasnotuntilI
attendedtheMichiganAssociationforComputerUsersinLearning,orMACUL,conferencethat
mypracticebegantotrulychange.Iamcontinuallyblownawaybytheamountofpassion
demonstrated(andextracted)bythepresentersandattendeesofthisevent.Afterexperiencing

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thetwodayphenomenon,Ireturnedtoschoolwithendlessprograms,applications,anddevicesI
yearnedtotryoutonmystudents.
Inkeepingwithmyteachingmantra,mystudentswereverymuchapartoftheprocessof
introducingthesenewlylearnedtoolstoourclassroom.Infact,mystudentsfromthatyearare
lovinglyreferredtoasmyguineapigclass,sincetheyallowedmetotryeverynewideaouton
them.Theimportantpieceofthistrialanderrorstyleintroduction,wastheerrorside.Whilein
mymindIthoughtIwasteachingtheway21stcenturylearnerslearnbest,Iwasonlyteaching
mystudentstheyway
I
thoughttodaysstudentslearn.Myinterpretationwasslightlyoffcourse,
asIsoonfoundout.Thetermcrashandburncouldhavebeenfrequentlyobservedinmy
classroomasItriedouteverynewprogramunderthesun.Mypassionforeducational
technologywasallconsuming,andIquicklylostsightofthepurposeIsetformyclassroom.My
guineapigssoonfilledmein,quitehonestly,ofwhattheyenjoyed,weresuccessfulwith,and
didnotlike.Thisallowedmetocraftamorerefinedtoolboxofsortsfortechnologyinthe
classroom.
However,whilethereweremyriadinstancesoffailedtechnologyuses,therewerean
equalamountofquitesuccessfullessons.Perhapstheshiningmoment,thatwhichIstriveto
repeatasoftenaspossibleineverycontext,wasalessoncompletelyfacilitatedbymystudents.
Asadults,intheteachingprofessionornot,wecanrememberourmostfavoritelessonorproject
fromschool.Thislessonwillundoubtedlybethatmemoryformystudents.
Myfirstartifact,mirroredafteraprojectfrommyundergraduatestudies,taskedeach
studenttopursueatopicofinterestwithinoursocialstudiescurriculum,deriveaprojectinan
efforttoteachtheirclassmatesabouttheirinterest,andutilizeaspecifictechnologytool.The

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catch,however,wasthatIwasonlyaroundtotroubleshootnottoteach.Ididnotteachthe
studentshowtousetheirtool,nordidIhelpthemstructuretheirprojects.Thestudentssimply
exploredatwill,didwhatmadesensetothem,andcreatedanindividualizedlessonontheirtopic
(Artifact1Standard1and2Goal2).
WhatIamdiscovering,isthat21stcenturystudentslearnthroughexploration,through
trial,andthrougherror.WhenIdelvedeeperintothekindofpeoplemystudentsare,Ithink
oftenabouttheirhobbies.Outsideofmyclassroom,mostofmystudentsareavidMinecraft
players,oralternativevideogameusers.Inaddition,Ihavecountlessstudentswhoare
remarkablycompetitiveandparticipateinsportingeventsofalltypes.Thisishowmystudents,
aspeople,interactintheirpersonalliveswithothersaroundthem.Itbecamecleartomethatthis
istheinformationIshouldberesearchingtostructurenotonlymyclassroom,butmycurriculum
aswell(Standard1and2).
PartII
Uponenteringmythirdyearofteachingthisyear,Ibeganinstructingwithrenewedspirit
andgreatenthusiasmforeducationaltechnology.Wellwithinmycertificateprogram,Ihada
multitudeofnewtoolstotryandreceivestudentfeedbackon.However,shortlybeforemy
schoolyearbegan,Iwasreassignedtoadifferent,lower,gradelevel.Iamnotsomeonewho
enjoyschange,andthisunfortunatelyfilteredintomyteachingthroughoutthisyear.Myrenewed
spiritandenthusiasmwasslightlydiminished,asmyownpersonalconfidencewasdeterred.
Inthisnewsetting,Inotonlylackedknowledgeofthecontentstandards,butIalso
lackeddevelopmentalknowledgeofmystudents.Therewasquitealargegapindevelopment
fromthestudentsIhadjustleft,tothosethatwerenowfacingmeeachday.Still,Itriedto

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maintainmypurposeofteachingthestudentsthewayinwhichtheylearnbest.Technologyis
stillverymuchapartofourclassroom,butIlearnedquicklythatIneededtobemuchmore
thoughtfulabouthowandwhenIwasusingthosetoolsIhadrefinedinthepreviousyear.For
example,Icouldnotsimplyputthedeviceinthehandsofmystudentsandhavethemcreatein
thewaythatmypreviousstudentsdid.Now,Ineededtoscaffold,andgraduallyrelease
explorationandlearningresponsibilitytomystudents.Oneexampleofthiswasprovidingmy
studentswithanintroductoryassignmentwhenusinganewtool.Atthestartofeachnewschool
year,IteachalessonthathelpsmystudentsacquaintthemselveswithGoogleClassrooma
commontoolusedinmyclassroom.Theyreceiveguidedpracticewithaccessingourclassroom,
findinganassignment,downloadingtheassignment,andturningitin.Further,wehave
simultaneouspracticewithGoogleDocsanothercommonlyusedtoolinourclassroomasthis
isintegratedintheassignment.Withitsstructurednature,theintroductoryassignmentallows
studentstohavepracticewiththetoolitselffirst,beforetheyneedtonavigateitforaspecific
assignmentwithoutmyhelp.
Thereissomuchtoteachingthatisreflectivehowwelldidthatlessongo,didmy
studentstrulyunderstandthatconcept,andhowcanwemoveforwardfromthispoint?As
educators,wearetaughttoteachinthisway.Infact,inalmosteverycourseofthisprogramwe
areencouragedtoanalyze,andmetaanalyze.Itisonlyinthiswaythatourpracticegrows.In
lookingbackonmycurrentyearofteaching,Irealizethatmypassionhastakenabackseat,andI
merelysurvivedthisyearofteaching.Goneweretheinnovations,creations,andmakingthat
couldbeseeninmypriortwoyears,andwithittheabilitytostructureaclassroomtowards
studentcenteredlearning.AllyearIstruggledwithhowtoeffectivelyreintegratetechnology

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intotheclassroominameaningful,andauthenticwayonethatwouldenhancestudentlearning,
notbeanoccasionaltreatorevent.
PartIII
Earlier,Ispokeabouthowtechnologyhaschangedinonlyfiveyears.Thus,whenIthink
abouthowIwouldlikemyteachingtoevolveandprogress,Ithinkofthisinthesametimeline.
Inthenextfiveyears,alargepartofmyfocusiscontinuingwithmyeducationaltechnology
passion.Notonlydoesthismakemeabetterteacher,asIamteachingmoreenthusiasticallybut
italsohelpsmystudentsdemonstratetheirlearningeasierandmorecreatively.Thewaythatmy
studentsnow,andinthenextfiveyears,viewandnavigatetheirworldismuchdifferentthan
whenIwasanelementarystudent.Gonearethedaysofprintingoffworksheets,ormerely
relyingonPowerPointtofacilitatealesson.Studentstodayareaccustomedtoconstant
stimulation,andtheabilitytodemonstratebycreating,notbycompleting.
However,currenteducationalpolicyandstructuredoesnotfosterthistypeofteachingI
aspiretoemploy.Legislationandpoliticiansoftenimpedeopportunitiestobeinnovativeinthe
classroomwithpolicieslikeNoChildLeftBehind,andRacetotheTop.Inmyfourthartifact,I
exploredthedifferentfactorsthatimpedeteachers,andstudents,frombeinginnovativeinthe
classroom(Artifact4Standard35).Theseproblems,termedWickedProblemsbytheNew
MediaConsortium,aresignificantchallengesfacedineducation,witheventrickiersolutions
(NMC,2015).Asasociety,wearesimplyillequippedtodesignlearningcurriculumfortodays
learnerswiththecurrentstructureofeducationinplace.Educationaltechnologytendstobean
endallbeallhopetosolvethewickedproblemscurrentlyineducation.However,without
properintegrationandknowledge,itcouldonlyprovetoextendtheproblemsalreadyinplace.

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Thus,itismyhopeforthenextfiveyearsofmycareertoseekoutevenmore
opportunitiestolearnaboutwaysinwhichtoteach21stcenturylearnersadequately,effectively,
andnurturingly.Iwanttobeabletopreservetheircuriosityandencouragetheircreativity.
ThroughmylearningincourseslikeCEP810,811,812,andTE831,asdemonstratedinmy
thirdartifact,Ihavelearnedthateducationaltechnologyismorethanputtingadeviceinthe
handsofastudent.Itinvolvestheteacherknowingwhatstudentscandowiththatdevice,and
beingabletoguidestudentstowardslearningmoremeaningfullyandauthenticallywithit
(Artifact3Standards26Goals13).
Asidefrommyownlearning,Ihopetodevelopabetterunderstandingofwhomy
studentsareespeciallyastheychangewitheachcomingyear.Developmentaltheoriesaside,
wesimplycannotpredicteverything,andneedtogobacktogettingtoknowourstudentstheold
fashionedwaybytalking.Iwanttotalktomystudentsandhavethemfeelliketheycandictate
theirlearningprocess,andknowthatIwillbetheretoaccommodatethat.Inmyclassroom,I
wanttoberesponsibleformodifying,differentiating,andintegratingwheneveritisneeded,and
howeveritisneeded.
Finally,afterhavingayearofstruggles,diminishedconfidence,andchange,Ihopethat
inthenextfiveyearsIcanreversemyconfidence,continuetostruggleifonlytolearnand
growandreintroducetechnologyasacoretoourclassroom.Mystudentsdeservetolearnin
thewaythatmakesthemostsensetothem,soIshouldteachinawaythatbestsupportstheway
theylearn.Inmyopinion,theonlywaytodothisisthroughinnovativemaking,andcreating,
withtechnologyintheclassroom.

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References
2015NMCHorizonReport.(2015).
NewMediaConsortium
.Retrievedfrom
http://cdn.nmc.org/media/2015nmchorizonreportk12EN.pdf