In Ten Years….?

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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.

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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.

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(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.

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About mrcameron14

I am a Grade 6 teacher of 18 years in Thunder Bay Ontario, Canada. Passionate about sharing with teachers throughout the world. Teaching students how to use technology 4 good and to make a positive difference in the world. Apple Distinguished Educator 2013, SMART Exemplary Educator 2013, Google Educator 2015.
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7 Responses to In Ten Years….?

  1. lisamnoble says:

    Peter, thank you for this. I do think that the advent of portable, personal tech has affected the increase in children coming into our kindergarten classes in a basically nonverbal state. If a custodial parent is interacting with a device and not a child, that leaves that child unable to build social interaction, which leaves huge gaps when they reach kindergarten.

    I really feel that we have made huge gains with integration of kids with multiple needs, but at the same time, our support has dropped off. I don’t see that as tech related, but budget related.


    • mrcameron14 says:

      Hi Lisa, thanks for your thoughts. My wife, Cheryl, who has been a K teacher has noticed a dramatic decline in her students’ communication skills as well.
      Yes, integration of students have seen huge gains, but how well we are meeting all kids’ needs is questionable, as we have far more kids in our classrooms with multiple needs with less support.
      If this trend continues, where will be be ten years from now…?


  2. Hazel Mason says:

    I found your survey questions very interesting because I am not sure things are worst but they are certainly different. I have always worked in schools with “at risk” populations and the challenges have been significant. To be honest class sizes are smaller now, especially from when I started teaching, but I don’t know the smaller class sizes have made a difference. I think Modern Learning is providing us with a real opportunity to capture kids and ignite their curiosity in ways we weren’t able to do before. There have always been those creative teachers who have used unique and creative ways to bring students into the learning process, the challenge now is for all of us to do so.

    I do think mental health is a growing issue for us. Students have access to so much information at the touch of a button and frankly it is enough to get adults down never mind children. We need to think of ways to help kids feel less overwhelmed by current circumstances and spark their feelings of efficacy. Help them to see they can make a difference and support them in a learning journey to make them feel powerful instead of powerless. I am feeling very hopeful Peter.


    • mrcameron14 says:

      Hi Hazel, thank you for your thoughts. I too am very hopeful, but concerned, as well.
      I agree, now more than ever, our students have the power to make a difference, starting first with themselves. This, perhaps, is the most important thing that teachers and parents can teach our children.


  3. Lee Araoz says:

    Excellent and thought-provoking post, Peter! I grapple with many of these issues at school and at home with my own children (who are 12, 12, 14, 22). For me, technology use all boils down to this Spider-Man quote, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Parents and educators must model and demonstrate safe and effective uses of technology on a daily basis. However, this is easier said than done. A firm and deliberate effort must be made by all stakeholder groups. Thankfully, there has been a recent pushback to indiscriminate tech use here in the US. Facebook and Twitter have come under fire as former employees joined together to raise awareness of the addictive characteristics of most of our favorite apps and how it is being built in by the manufacturers. The article below compared social media to big tobacco:

    Films like Screenagers have also raised awareness of this issue:

    “Away for the Day” cell phone policies in schools have arisen as a result. So the awareness is definitely there and now it’s up to us to make sure change occurs.

    Concurrently, I believe we must work to close the Digital USE Divide which exists in many of our schools here in the states where the passive consumption of digital content reigns supreme. Educators must teach students how to create and share content with digital tools. We must move beyond substitution as we continue to integrate technology into classrooms. School leaders must understand that worksheets on Chromebooks and iPads are still worksheets. Policies must be put in place to ensure that teachers receive instructional support as more digital devices are purchased and deployed.

    We’ve come a long way in the last ten years and mistakes have been made. However, I remain optimistic for the future of digital learning inside and outside of the traditional classroom.


    • mrcameron14 says:

      Thanks for your insights Lee. I worry about policy makers going to far the extreme and eliminate personal devices from the classroom and schools. Now is not the time to eliminate, but educate.
      In regards to your last point, I agree. If we are going to use tech in the classroom, much more must be done than substitute. Who the instructional support comes from is also very important. Luckily, we have technology to connect us and share best practices and ideas with one another. BUT, what about those who aren’t as connected….? So many questions…

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: This Week in Ontario Edublogs – doug — off the record

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