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Who will lead the 21st century classroom?

September 27, 2012

The way we teach is changing, but some of us don’t know it or care to be a part of it. Teachers today are teaching lessons that don’t engage students because they are stuck in their old school ways of doing things. Education is slow to change or reinvent itself when needed. In order to bring about change within our educational system to 21st century learning, we will need to have site leaders (principals) willing to push change and foster environments that take advantage of and enhance student technology skills. I would recommend that all instructional leaders read Michael Fullan’s “Leading in a Culture of Change”. In this book he identifies how educational leaders need to be leaders in  pushing disruption in the educational environment in order to bring about change. Those of us in online teaching are experiencing this disruption first hand and must be willing to be leaders through this process of  change.

I would suggest the best way to start to lead at your school site in the integration of technology would be to focus on small changes that will impact teaching at the site. Here is a great place to start if you are looking for Web 2.0 tools that you can bring into the classroom:

If you are not the site leader, than you will have to sit down with your site leader and identify the ways that Web 2.0 can bring about positive teaching changes that can have an impact on student learning. Your principal has to be on board. Luckily, I have a site leader who is open to change; although he has multiple tasks and does not want to be the force behind this change. One thing that I have been able to do is inform the staff of some of the things that I am trying to do with our online program and share some of the things that I have found that teachers can use in the classroom such as I used Popplet in my World History class so that students could connect people, places, and events. What a great tool. PowerPoint is another great tool that students use, but are becoming bored with. Well, how about using a Prezi instead? These were simple things that I could introduce that teachers were excited to use and try and there are many more you can find on the net.

One thing that I believe we need to understand is just how much of a change is coming in the area of education and the world of online learning. A favorite book of mine on that change that I would encourage you to read is the World is Open by Curtis Bonk. He also has a great website/blog to go along with the book that will open your eyes to all the free content that is out there for instructors and students: This blog is on the top of list of blogs that I follow. I was amazed at the potential of online learning after reading this book and I am still amazed at the change that is and will be coming in education as we transition to a more flexible and student oriented teaching and learning environment for our students. Will you be a leader in this change or will you follow. I choose to be a leader.


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  1. Clair Judas permalink


    Thanks for the suggested readings and the links. It is good to get suggestions from someone who is in the midst of and supporting change. I see the change coming also and I am embracing it. I look back at my career and I see that it is the change that I have encountered and embraced that has kept me interested in education. Had I stagnated, I wouldn’t be excited to be in my job at this point in my life.

    Change is hard. Just last week I was in a SHIFT training. SHIFT is an acronym for SHaping change In Fellow Teachers. For a reading they used the book “SWITCH: How to Change Things When Change is Hard”. by Heath & Heath.

    The basic premise is that people have a hard time changing, not because they don’t understand that change is necessary, but because emotionally it takes them way out of their comfort zone. I liked the way the authors described the necessary conditions to foster change. It makes sense.

    On the one hand, there is our emotional self which likes to continue on the way things are, they used the analogy of an elephant. On the other hand is our rational/reasoning self which may well agree that change would be a good thing. Here they used the analogy of a rider. The rider is constantly, throughout our lives, directing the elephant who just wants to go on doing the things he always has. Like, eating that bowl of ice cream before bed, sitting on the couch watching TV, having that second (or third) helping of potatoes and gravy while at the same time ‘knowing’ that it isn’t heart-healthy.

    The person may want to change, but without a clear, discernible, short term objective that he ‘wants’ to achieve, it probably isn’t going to happen. We have to make the elephant believe in the dream of what the change will provide for us. To see the real growth in kids who have experienced the change already may provide that.

    Anyway, that was the premise of the training. So yes, change is going to happen. We need to be on board. Now, we need to believe in it!

  2. Hi Robert,

    Thank you for sharing some of the Web 2.0 tools that you have used in the classroom. I just checked out and and can already think of some great uses for these tools!

    On another note, I totally agree with what you said in your blog about educators needing to be willing to take a stand and step forward to bring about change to help further the education of our students.

    I know that it is not easy for me to step outside of my comfort zone…I like routines 🙂 However, in a world that is changing so rapidly, I’ve grown to accept that change is inevitable. I also realize that if I’m not willing to continue to learn and change with the times, then how can I teach my students the importance of lifelong learning and really mean it?

    • Your last sentence is so true. As this change comes, there will be some teachers who will not have skills to provide quality instruction. I can tell you that as someone who has been in a leadership position that how people respond to this type of change will impact their position. Simply, if I have a teacher who is continuing to learn and grow, I will support them. If I have someone who is not willing then that causes some problems for me and I am less inclined to continue to work with them and will look to move them or let them go.

  3. Oh, this sparked two responses from me!

    1. I am one of the fortunate teachers who has a leader that is on board with technology and its ever increasing power in the classroom. My principal loves to see any new Web 2.0 tool I might try to use. In fact, just over the summer I became familiar with an app on my phone called “everyme” in which I can keep in touch with a small group of people. I can post pictures or small blurps, and everyone else in my group can see it to read and/or respond. You don’t need a smartphone to use it either. Any message will appear as an email if someone doesn’t have it as an app. It is actually pretty cool, and I had visions of keeping in touch with my AP students when we aren’t in class. It could be a sort of addition to the discussion that we start in the classroom. When I ran the idea by my principal, explaining to him that it might promote the use of cell phones in school (which students are NOT allowed to use), he was totally on board. He agrees that this is the way of the future. How else are we going to teach our students proper cell etiquette if we can’t use the cellular devices in the classroom? I was very happy with that.

    and 2. I love Prezis!!! I use them very briefly with my sophomores and “wow” them. Then by the time I have them again as seniors, they know more about how to create a prezi than I do! Last year my group of six AP boys taught me several very cool things about prezis. I was definitely impressed with the amount they learned by self teaching and researching. I am looking forward to seeing more about the other tools you listed in your blog.

    • It is good to hear that your principal is open to Web 2.0 in the classroom. One way to lead is to just not interfere and trust those people who are willing to lay the foundation for change. I am glad that my principal at least allows me to examine these Web 2.0 tools in the classroom and is interested in seeing change take place.
      Your example of mobile technology is a good one. We have a policy of no cell phones during the class period and students are not allowed to have them out. The problem with this is that this mobile technology is readily available and should be used for educational purposes. Most students have cell phones and just think of the cost savings of using mobile over having hardwired computers. We all know that there usually is not enough computers to really impact the school setting. It will be interesting to see if districts or school sites ease up on the use of mobile technology and develop educational opportunities centered around them.

  4. Marc permalink

    Change is a big part of education, especially when it comes to technology. I have seen teachers who are willing to change textbooks, but not willing to include Web 2.0 technology. Since these teachers did not grow up with technology, they do not think it is necessary to include it in the classroom. I also think some teachers are intimidated by the fact that the students know more about technology than they do. As teachers, we have to realize that this may be an area in which we learn from our students.
    I also think that the students respond better when they are able to use something they are familar with. I think you provided a nice example of how these tools can be used in the classroom. I have used Prezi before and just created a Popplet account. Thank you for providing such great resources!

    • Marc-

      You are right about teachers not wanting to use technology because the students know more than they do. You are also right that we can learn from the students, and I think that is a good thing. I have found that if I can give them the platform (such as a popplet) they will use it to produce some great things. My job is to use the tool to help to enhance the learning process. I do not necessarily need to be the technical expert. I think teachers need to see Web 2.0 as a way to take advantage of student skills, they already are using these tools in their daily lives.

  5. I am struggling with the integration of technology in my classroom. On one hand, I love to wow my students, but when something goes wrong and the technology fails, it is very discouraging. Just this week I was giving a test using the Smart Response clickers. For some reason, my laptop blocked my use of the program and said my trial period had expired, even though the school bought the system and it should not be under a trial license. In order to use the clickers for a test, I have to input all of the student ID numbers and names, and when the test is over I can export an Excel document that has the grades and saves me lots of grading time. The morning of the test, I had to find another laptop, install the program and input student names and ID numbers. I love using the clickers when they work, and the students love being able to see their score immediately. I feel like this type of assessment is 21st century, but I wonder if this is in fact better. Instead of giving a test like this, I would much rather have the students discuss the implications of the novel and possibly use a blog or a wiki, but they are blocked for students at my school. I would like to lead the way with technology but I have found it to be frustrating when great resources are blocked and there is little help for technology problems because so few administrators and educators are familiar with the advancements. I guess the point of my rambling content is this: what is the best way to lead the charge for 21st century classrooms, without making life more difficult for yourself?

    • Technology can be frustrating at times, especially when you have a great lesson plan and it fails. Very frustrating. I have never used clickers, so I do not know much about them. It is also frustrating that individual teachers are much more aware and ahead of the Web 2.0, yet the district ed tech is blocking simple tools that could help in the classroom. I have a great discussion board that you could use for class: It is very easy to use and student and teacher friendly.

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