The Networked Teacher

In my last post, I highlighted some thoughts from predecessors concerning the use of the latest types of ‘technology’ in each generation.  I wanted to expand on it:

I hate to sound like a broken record, but I guess I will anyway.

Some educational philosophers and theorists feel that today’s teachers have challenges like no other generation.  While I can sort of see their point to a degree, I feel that teachers have been facing obstacles and challenges since time immemorial, and today’s generation of teachers are no exception.

We have always been trying to educate our students for a future that we cannot really predict.  Granted, looking back at our history there have been some lulls in the development of technologies that have shaped education and beyond, but the developments of today are not alone in orchestrating sweeping changes and rapid evolution.

Here are just a few examples:

Pre-Gutenberg, say the year 1430, how could an educator of the day have predicted that in only a few short decades, not only would they be faced with teaching the masses to read, but that there would be twenty million volumes of text in Western Europe alone?  You don’t need to be Francis Bacon to realize that changes in technology have a profound effect on the way the world operates.  And yes, I just hyperlinked Wikipedia!  Bacon famously wrote that typographical printing has “changed the whole face and state of things throughout the world.”  To see the latest innovation under the Gutenberg umbrella, check out Project Gutenberg!  It may be of interest to some, especially librarians.

I’m going to skip about five hundred years to bring us to 1939, and skip several thousand kilometers to bring us from Germany to the sunny coast of Palo Alto.  Not even the neighbors of David Packard could have known what was going on in his garage.  The computer has heavily influenced the way teachers do business, ranging from professional development, instruction, assessment, reporting, record keeping, etc…  Incidentally, for a great timeline of the invention and development of the computer, see here.

The next and most recent example is the Internet.  Originally developed in 1973 by the United States Department of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and directed by American engineer Robert Kahn.  Originally developed for military communication purposes, yadda yadda yadda, it has become the hub for nearly all communication and transcends all areas of modern day society.   How does the Internet influence the way we teach?  Well, that’s still a work in progress.

What is clear, though, is that our students will be using the Internet and media 2.0, in some form, in their future, whatever it may hold.

When the calculator was introduced in class to students, it became part of the hidden curriculum to teach our students its effective and responsible use.  When computer labs and computer pods in the classroom were introduced, the same things applied.  The advent of interactive white boards has also changed the way many educators go about their work.  I see no differences with current technologies and media 2.0 tools.

Our students are techno-natives, and as such, have been ‘plugged in’ since birth.  They use these tools everyday.  Perhaps by effectively integrating media 2.0 (3.0?) tools into our practice, we will not only engage them further in their learning and prepare them for their collective future (instead of ours), but also teach them to use these tools effectively, and more importantly, responsibly.

It needs to be said that nothing replaces good teaching.  The best teachers don’t need technology to educate our students, while at the same time; no technology in the world can replace good practice.

I hope I have at least sparked the interest of some to try and learn more about these tools and how they can be used effectively in the classroom.  In future posts, I’ll try and highlight a few of these tools and showcase some ways to use them to help our students.  It shouldn’t be difficult to find tools to write about as new ones are being developed every day.

Comments are always appreciated!

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About mitchchampagne

I am a husband of one, and a father of three. I am am elementary teacher for the Peterborough, Victoria, Northumberland & Clarington Catholic District School Board and a part-time Faculty member at the School of Education and Professional Learning, Trent University.
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