Teaching

10 years, 10 big changes in classrooms

10 years, 10 big changes in classrooms

Education is in rapidly changing times. Technology is creating learning opportunities that never existed before. It’s amazing how much has changed in just 10 years.

A lot has changed since I stepped into my own classroom for the first time almost 10 years ago.

I was an education convert — a journalist who decided to transition to teaching after realizing that being a reporter required a certain aggressiveness and pushiness that just wasn’t me.

I started that first day armed with my classroom management plan and two weeks of lesson plans ready to go. (Even though I really had no idea how I was really going to implement either.)

I was the only foreign language teacher in a small west-central Indiana high school, and in many ways, I felt all alone.

It’s amazing to think how different education today is from when I was a wide-eyed rookie teacher 10 years ago. 

If only I could have started my career in today’s world …

1. I wouldn’t have had to feel alone. With growing teacher communities all over social media, new teachers have instant access to supportive colleagues all over the world. I would have attended every #ntchat (New Teachers Chat) at 8 p.m. EST on Wednesdays.

2. I would have had a rich library of resources to choose from. I think of the deep well of digital curriculum available on NBC Learn, Khan Academy and on various YouTube channels. There are all those primary resources available through the National Archives. Finding quality material wouldn’t have been the problem.

3. My students could have been connected to real people all over the world. The social connections that exist today go so much farther than posting minute-by-minute updates of what you’re doing right now. Now, my students are learning Spanish from real students in Spain via Skype. That couldn’t have happened before.

4. The power of technology would have become ubiquitous. When I started teaching, there was no computer lab. My desktop computer and overhead projector were all I had access to in my classroom. Now, students carry more powerful devices in their pockets than any piece of technology in my first classroom.

5. Anyone would be able to create. Ten years ago, we were just starting to dip our toes in the culture of mass creating and sharing. Now we’re fully immersed in it. When we learn something now, there’s nothing stopping us from passing it along to others in the form of a video, a web page or an image.

6. Dynamic tools would be free and available to anyone. I’m constantly amazed at all the amazing collaborative things students can do with Google Apps. YouTube and WeVideo have powerful free video editing programs that students can use to create innovative video projects. There’s so much available these days.

7. Teachers wouldn’t be the gatekeepers anymore. Anyone can learn just about anything online now. With sites like Coursera and Udemy, students of all ages are free to pursue their passions. They don’t have to find a person or a classroom. With a little simple online searching, learning is at their fingertips.

8. Learning could happen at any hour of the day — or night! In those early days of my teaching career, voice mail and e-mail accessible only at school seemed to be the only ways to get in contact with me. Now, students can use a variety of communication tools (Remind 101, Today’sMeet, etc.) to connect with me and others from class.

9. The digital footprint would exist. This could be a bad thing, but it also has the potential to be a very good thing. Today’s students have the chance to build a solid online reputation and create in digital spaces to give themselves a fine reputation going into college and the workforce.

10. Flappy Bird wouldn’t exist. Neither would Angry Birds. I could have saved valuable amounts of my life instead of trying to send a bird between green pipes or to blow up bad piggies. (OK, so not all changes have been productive!)

What other changes have you seen in your teaching career? What do you wish you had when you were a rookie teacher? Or, if you’re new to teaching, what has been invaluable to you that didn’t exist before? Leave your thoughts in a comment below!

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Matt is scheduled to present at the following conferences this school year:

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