Education has changed more in the past decade than in the century leading up to it.
Think of your classroom ten years ago. In 2008, mine consisted of a blackboard, desks, textbooks, novels and workbooks. It was a place where I delivered content and students absorbed and memorized. In 1998 my classroom was pretty much a mirror image of my classroom in 2008. The classrooms that I sat in as a student, starting in 1976, were similar. Arguably, classrooms in 1918 weren’t much different.
Now think of your classroom today. In the past ten years has it changed much? I’d be willing to bet it has. I know mine certainly has. What has been the impetus for such dramatic change? I would have to say the accessibility of technology to both teachers and students within classrooms has dramatically affected the way students learn and teachers teach.
I have tools and resources available to my students and myself that I never before dreamed possible. I also have a global network of educators with whom I connect with on a daily basis to help make me a better teacher and to help reach the needs of all my learners. I’m thankful for the tools and networks that accessible technology has provided’ because now, more than ever, I need them.
Now, think of the students in your classrooms today. Are they different than they were ten years ago? According to over one hundred Ontario teachers, the answer is yes.
(Note: the number of people who voted “same” are as follows: Jan 14-0, Jan 18-1, Jan 21-10, Jan 27-5)
The above data suggests children in Ontario are coming to school less prepared and with far more mental health needs. It also suggests that students are coming to school less consistently and teachers have less support to help students who require assistance.
What has been the cause of such a dramatic change in our students over the last ten years? Does the accessibility to technology play a contributing factor? The first four years of a child’s life are fundamentally paramount. These years are the ones that shape a child’s future. Prior to ten years ago, when technology wasn’t nearly as accessible, parents were left to traditional tools to teach and ‘entertain’ their children. Books, play, conversation and yes, tv and video games (although for the most part not portable) were the means by which children learned prior to attending school. In the past decade, readily accessible, portable technology (tablets and phones) have been added to parent’s toolkits. The question is: Are parents overusing and misusing technology which is contributing to their children being less prepared for school and, is it having a negative impact on their overall mental health?
Has wireless technology become the new pacifier for our children? Do parents believe that time spent on tablets and phones is a better option for their children than reading a book, playing or having a conversation? Human interaction is what human beings need to thrive and learn.
Technology seems to be a bit of a paradox. It can be so powerful and useful yet so damaging.
It has helped teachers give students opportunities to learn that were never before imagined. It has put tools into the hands of students, allowing teachers to break down barriers to learning, helping students to flourish. It has provided students a means by which they can access instantaneous information, allowing them greater opportunities to learn, create, collaborate, think and solve problems. Because of accessible technology, students and teachers alike can connect with people the world over. Now more than ever, our students have incredible opportunities to learn and interact with one another.
Bringing such powerful tools into any environment comes with huge responsibility.
In a classroom, teachers must constantly reflect upon, and refine how, when and why technology (SMARTBoards, laptops, tablets, social media, blogs, podcasts, etc.) is being used. Educators must recognize that responsibility comes with bringing technology into the classroom. A teacher should model and create opportunities to use technology in positive, powerful and thoughtful ways. Luckily, we have a large networks of educators to rely upon to share best practices and ideas with.
Within the home, are parents recognizing the same responsibility? Are they reflecting upon and refining how, when and why technology is being used? Do parents model and create opportunities to use technology in positive, powerful and thoughtful ways? Do parents have access to networks to rely upon to share best practices and ideas for using tech within their own homes?
What other factors, other than technology are leading teachers to come to such drastic conclusions about our children compared to ten years ago?
If you are an educator, do you see the same trends in your school? What are your strategies for dealing with such an uptrend in mental health issues and the academic, social and behavioural needs within your class? How do you balance the use of technology within your classroom? How do you use technology in a meaningful way that helps to compliment the social, emotional, and academic needs of your students?
As a parent, has technology had a positive or negative impact on your children’s learning and their overall mental health and well being? What do you do to balance the use of technology within your home? How do you use technology in a meaningful way that helps to compliment the social, emotional, and academic needs of your children?
So….where do we go from here? I wonder how teachers will answer the same survey questions ten years from now. What needs to be done to insure that teachers will respond by saying that children are coming to school far more prepared, with far fewer mental health issues, with much more consistently and receiving the support they require?
This is not time to point fingers and place blame. It is time to come together as a global community of educators (parents included) to plan and insure that we are are all doing what is best for our children, our future.
Update: Just as I was attempting to write a follow up to this blog post, my wife shared this blog post “The Silent Tragedy Affecting Todays Children (and what to do about it)” by Victoria Prooday with me. Perhaps we can all begin by reading and sharing this article.
As always your thoughts are welcome.