Thoughts on Life, Art, Photography, Technology, Teaching and Travel…..
I must admit it’s been a relaxing and productive Christmas break for me. As I mentioned in a previous post, my plans of traveling to New York were scrapped due to the bad snow storms slamming DC all the way to Long Island – so I regrouped and have been getting lots accomplished here at home.
Once I accepted the fact that I wasn’t going anywhere for Christmas I started making lists of things I wanted to accomplish, but never had the time due to the demands of work. In addition to getting my house and office clean, yard raked, closets organized and clothes I no longer wear dropped off at the Salvation Army – I’ve spent a few hours each day upgrading and retooling my online classes. This has got me thinking about the current state of teaching and learning as we head into the year 2010. First off it’s hard to believe 2010 is just around the corner. Seems like yesterday when everyone was stressing out over Y2K – that was 10 years ago!
The teacher / student dynamic (relationship) has also changed dramatically since the 90’s. First of all both students and teachers (for the most part) have embraced (and become proficient with) a variety of new technologies which have been catalysts for dramatic growth in online education.
I’ll readily admit I would have retired early from teaching if it were not for the introduction of Blackboard (online teaching) in the late 90’s. Teaching online introduced me to new and creative challenges just when I was starting getting burned out from traditional classroom instruction.
This brings me to the core of my thoughts on teaching and learning in 2010. Essentially I believe the attributes required to be an effective teacher are still the same as we enter the next decade of this new millennium. Great teachers are creative, innovative, passionate, enthusiastic and show sincere interest and comprehension of their respective subject area. Students on the other hand have changed over the past 10-15 years and this evolution has come about in part because of rapid advances in technology and cyber culture.
Now here’s the rub. I believe teachers (at all grade levels) have to do a better job mastering the new and powerful tools (technology) at their disposal for CONNECTING with (and engaging) their students. The attributes for great teachers is the same BUT the tools we use for teaching have changed and become much more technologically sophisticated. This is our challenge heading into the next decade.
Students on the other hand may have a better grasp on technology, however the techniques and skills required for effective learning have not changed all that much either. This is where I sense a disconnect based on my 10+ years teaching exclusively online for a variety of colleges across North Carolina. Sure… we as teachers and students have all this great and powerful communications technology (Video, YouTube, Podcasts, Screencasts, 3-D simulations, Second Life, Blackboard, Moodle, etc.) at our disposal for imparting and deciphering information, however if the students are not motivated or interested in learning and not willing to put the time and effort in to meet the instructor halfway on the learning journey then it’s not going to matter how great the technology is – learning is NOT going to occur.
Bottom line here (in my opinion) is that teaching tools (technology) have changed dramatically, but the skills and attributes needed for being excellent teachers and effective learners remain relatively the same. Both students and teachers must harness (embrace) technology for both teaching and learning to the point where it becomes intuitive. The days of the chalk board and overhead projector are over and have been replaced with sophisticated course management systems.
I’m excited about the coming year and the challenges facing me as an online teacher and Distant Learning Director. In reality this is not all that complicated. The Industrial Revolution is over and that instructional model is just about dead and buried. As I state at the beginning of all my distance learning workshops; The easy part is becoming proficient and confident with technology – the real challenge for both teachers and students is using it to its fullest potential for both teaching and learning. 2010….here I come!