I hit the water hard, and down I shot. Deep and black it was. Funny, that I am not sure whether I remember more the plunge or the waving arms and muffled shouts of my friend Betty and her family as I popped back to the surface. A tender middle “schooler,” I had jumped into ninety-foot-plus water and had forgotten my life preserver. And, I was allowed to vacation only if I promised to always wear a life belt. My plunge into education of technological skills was no less frightening. The familiar is easier, comfortable, and the drop into 21st century skills learning feels dark and deep, yet every day I succeed is exhilarating and empowering. An older worker confounded? Not me (Tapscott & Williams, 2007). I have learned that as technologies transform the world, I have new strength and stick-to-itiveness to transform my classroom.
The first memory of a change in perspective is while sitting on my porch reading the preface to Will Richardson’s Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts.. . . My attitude of “let’s get this over with” quickly turned to allure, and my poor husband had to listen as I called through the window every fact and fascinating morsel. The teaching and learning process, I have always believed should be student-centered, yet that is not to say I have always practiced. Truthfully, I have probably spent more time wondering how to involve students in their own learning than actually doing it. Now the knowledge that teachers should embrace the millennials’ ways instead of being afraid of them is the best kind of knowledge: empowering. Through this course, the tools of technology have been “demystified” for me, and I am now practicing with “better tools” (Thornburg, 2008) and allowing my “Digital Natives” (Prensky, 2001) to use their natural attributes. I am also empowered with my new “smarts,” one of Kottler, Zehm, and Kottler’s (2005) attributes of a great teacher, which is needed to gain today’s students’ respect and attention.
My new knowledge and skills have already enabled me to create a yearbook wiki, which promotes communication, collaboration, staff-sufficiency, and excitement, so my first long-term goal is to also create and employ the use of blog, reader, and podcast sites to “set the stage,” research, and minimize lectures in my classroom respectively.
My second long-term goal is to educate colleagues, administration, and possibly the district regarding the need for education about appropriate and skilled use of the Internet. After just one successful week using our yearbook wiki, the county Internet filter blocked its use. The students were disappointed, frustrated, and slightly angry that such a simple and comfortable way to communicate and facilitate ad sales would be deemed inappropriate. I thought of Richardson’s blog: “Don’t, Don’t, Don’t vs. Do, Do, Do” where he remarks how “stiff policies [speak] volumes” about what educators do not “teach” in terms of the Internet (2009). We label movies and television for appropriateness and then “bury our heads” when it comes to appropriate use of the Internet. I feel confused. Student-centered learning in the 21st century involves “online reading comprehension and learning skills” says Miners & Pascopella (Oct. 2007), and I, like Prensky (2001), believe that unless we want to let the “Digital Natives” teach themselves, “we had better confront the issue.” And confront the issue I will, I have begun with my students, will work through colleagues, administration, and follow with elected board officials if necessary. I have long been wondering what is wrong in our classrooms, and now that I know and understand 21st century skills, I plan to “do something different” (Thornburg, 2008).