Alvin Toffler said, “the illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” Learners of today will be constantly fighting the push and pull of new tools, new ideas, and an ever-connected world. Educators must meet their learners where they are and evolve alongside them. I have spent the past 11 years working with students and teachers spanning PK-12th grade, as they navigate the challenges and celebrate the successes of integrating instructional technology tools and innovative thinking structures into their learning environments. Through this work I have developed a Constructivist philosophy causing me to feel very deeply that students learn through experience and build their knowledge framework based on each new experience they have. My role is to be a facilitator of learning, permitting the learner to grow and evolve through a collaborative learning environment. I am passionate about collaborative design challenges, using both high tech and low-tech tools, and developing high quality faculty and staff professional development, which has enabled me to see growth in the learner’s (adult or child) ability to teach, challenge, and support one another as they learn new concepts.
Technology in the classroom has evolved in a multitude of ways over the past decade. I have seen great advances in the thinking around what students are capable of creating through classroom technologies using design thinking models and Maker-based education. This includes everything from desktop computing to 1-to-1 device integration to Makerspaces. It is an exciting and ever-changing piece of the learning environment that comes with both advantages and disadvantages. Students should have access to a variety of tools and experiences to enhance their ability to connect, communicate, and learn. Yet, it is imperative that we teach our students how to use these tools in an ethical and intelligent manner that promotes self-reflection, mindfulness, and critical thinking.
Students of all ages face similar challenges to their time, social emotional strain, and over-connectedness to the outside world. With little time for reflection and less media separation, the need to support students with balanced healthy expectations around their learning, social experiences, and wellness is paramount. Creating curriculum with a focus on entrepreneurialism, innovation, and real-world applications, connects students to their work by building empathy and deep reflection, which creates intrinsic fulfillment in their learning.
We are fortunate to live in a time where we can be members of global communities from our homes, create our own shareable media content with millions in a moment, find information immediately, and ultimately shrink the vastness of the world with a click. As educators we have the opportunity to be catalysts in the lives of the students we teach. We can be change makers that foster the hopes and dreams of the young people we work with. Our students deserve opportunities to take risks, to be challenged, ask questions, and reflect on their past, present and future.