My life as an elementary tech teacher changes from year to year. This make my career a bit of a double-edged sword, it is great to discover and learn new things, but one of the powerful ways to improve your instruction is to teach the same lesson year after year and make improvements to it. For most other teachers, their job remains the same year to year. Sure, a new reading or math program might change things a bit, but it is still reading and math. My subject is like a dragon that I must find and slay -- a moving target that is large and unpredictable. And if you get it wrong, you're toast!
But before I start to sing you my sad song, let's take a look at the life-long career as a teacher. For the general subjects like math, writing, reading, history and science -- things are pretty much the same as they were when they got their teaching degree. Sure, Pluto got dropped as a planet, but the Civil War is still the Civil War -- long division still works -- a pronoun is still a pronoun. But this is not how the dragon called technology is.
As you know every summer I review my lessons with my principal to make sure that our students are getting the best in technology instruction. Some projects get dropped while others get tweaked, but about 20% of my lessons get dropped every year. The dragon keeps moving.
Years ago, when I was teaching technology at middle school, I taught students how to make their own MySpace page. Can you imagine what would happen if I tried that today? What's MySpace Mr. Flick? MySpace is for losers!
I don't care if you are a dedicated full-time tech teacher like me or a regular classroom teacher who has technology mixed into your lessons (which you should), change is the nature of the beast called edtech. We must continue to review the latest trends and concepts to make sure that our students get the best tech skills we can give them, before we send them out into this ever-changing world.
Yesterday, I met with my principal to discuss the growth our our student body. We are in a new sub-division of our city and houses are going up all around us and our school is growing by leaps and bounds. We discussed what technology instruction should look like in a school of 500 students. What should I be teaching when every one of our fourth and fifth grade students have their own netbooks (which happens next year)? We agreed that there is no reason for these netbook-toting students to come to my computer lab, but where do I teach them? In their classroom? In the media center?
If I move some of my instruction to the media center, then I will need an interactive whiteboard installed and what about furniture? Tables? Desks? Sofas and chairs? Besides, I just got my interactive whiteboard two months ago.
I realize that some teachers that are reading this are saying, "These aren't problems. I have declining enrollment and a roof that needs to be replaced, and you're whining about whether to buy tables or sofas. Get a clue Mr. Flick!" I can appreciate how great I have it to be in a new school with a steady growth, but the point of this article is change.
My school is only four years old and we are already having to change rooms. I think we need to change our second computer lab to a classroom. When the school was built, they never considered the new 1:1 program that our district has adopted. Change is the nature of the beast called edtech.
As 21st century teachers we need to be flexible, more fluid, able to change direction quickly. The classroom of tomorrow looks nothing like the classroom of yesterday. The job I was hired to do a few years ago, might be nothing like the job my principal might ask me to do next year.
I recognize and accept the doubled-edged sword of my profession. I know that if it is not sharpened and used it will just rust and eventually break. So I raise it high and yell "Charge!" as I head forward into the future of giving our students the skills they need to be successful in a world I can't even imagine.
Now where's that dragon hiding?
- Brad Flickinger, Tech Teacher, Bethke Elementary School