How prepared are our teachers for the 21st century teaching?


As I See It

With the high demand of technology in the classroom for schools to remain competitive in the 21st education century, are the teachers prepared to adapt to tech gadgets in their classroom instruction?

University of Montana professor Joe Barnhart, whose background includes more than 12 years technical experience as an assistant director of information technology, mentioned in his article published lately at The Journal, that teachers need to be prepared and must possess skills to be effective.

I agree with him because teachers need to familiarize themselves on what kind of technology and whatever gadgets that come along with it to be effective in their classroom teaching. In fact, they need to be trained to be effective teachers with the aid of technology. Actually, this is a requirement for schools to survive the 21st century education: having knowledgeable and effective tech teachers.

In his article 8 Skills for Future-Proofed Teachers, he outlined the skills a teacher needs to be effective in the classroom. These traits are requirements for a model classroom in the 21st century. In fact, it involves teacher’s choice of using the interactive whiteboards or the interactive flat screen television. While both offer enhanced learning experience, we need a teacher to effectively use either of the tech gadget in the classroom, depending on which gadget was chosen by school administrators to be used in their classrooms.

According to Barnhart, the number one technology skill any teacher — veteran or rookie —should learn is adaptability. This is a trait teachers need to possess. “We all know computer-based devices change overnight. Recognizing how new innovations can integrate into a class of 25-30 students is truly a miraculous skill. Seeing the potential, recognizing the pitfalls and promoting learning is just a part of the job. Teaching with technology is a constant learning curve. There’s no place for complacency in today’s schools,” Barnhart explained.

Secondly, teachers need to get their hands dirty. Barnhart said, “For my money, future teachers need to be willing to jump in and sleuth away. Look, listen and apply some basic trouble-shooting techniques when things go south. And, with technology, disaster is only as certain as your cocksure attitude that everything will work. “No Fear” should be the mantra of teachers who face pesky equipment. Heck, with the vast resources of the World Wide Web, a solution is often not far away. If, for example, a projector and laptop aren’t playing well together, Google it”. In short, a teacher needs to be brave enough and have confidence of himself or herself, and need not panic.

Of course, a teacher needs to stay connected. “Cables, connections, and protocol — oh my! Yes indeed, interfacing devices changes almost as fast as a toddler’s diaper. Thunder, lightning, SVGA, HDMI, composite are a few of the standards teachers of the future will need to sample. It’s more important to realize the tenuous relationship of how things connect and, when they don’t, where to find solutions,” Barnhart further explained.

Compatibility is the other skill a modern-day teacher needs to possess. This was very much stressed by the company she worked with before where they had six products, each with a six-month re-release cycle which included constant beta testing to address new hardware congruity. “Companies, like teachers, constantly face upward and downward compatibility issues. Teachers face a vicious catch-up race with morphing technology. Ever heard a question like, ‘Hey, that worked on version 12.4, why doesn’t it run on 14.3?’”

Barnhart mentioned that new teachers don’t have to be “born again” but they should be willing to convert. Conversion is the word! This is another trait the modern-day teachers must have to be able to approach a technical problem. The example given was: “I’m building a presentation for an interactive whiteboard and want to embed a video file but the application doesn’t like .mov file type. How do I fix that?” I remember our tech person saying that images, video, audio and screen recordings all have unique file formats. What file types does your application accept? Knowledgeable navigation in the conversion realm can save time and frustration.

Barnhart described the next trait as not dealing with clogged plumbing. “You don’t need to build a network to understand how they work. The gory details of IEE 802.11 wireless standards or wireless access point deployment isn’t important. Right? Right! Just as understanding the functional parts in your own home can help ease the stress when you’re faced with repairs, so can knowledge of computer-based infrastructures when devices don’t work. ‘I plugged my laptop into the wall jack, why can’t I get to my Prezi presentation? ‘Get the plunger and let’s find out,” he said.

It’s not a bed of roses… don’t expect that!

This is a misconception teachers entertain. “The bad face of technology stares at teachers daily — most notably, cyberbullying. Future teachers have to possess the strategies to combat this horrible plague on children. Proactive techniques are out there and really can get through to students. In addition, social media offers a real-time threat to teacher privacy. Take the civil action case, Requa v. Kent School District, et al., where a student created an unflattering stealth video of one of his teachers, put it to music, and posted it on YouTube titled “Mongzilla.” Digital citizenship truly starts in the schools,” the author said.

The ultimate skill, Barnhart mentioned is, “Go high tech but give high touch”. He cited the John Naisbitts’s book in, Megatrends which became a New York Times bestseller. The book looked at 10 trends facing society. One was the balance between “high tech and high touch.” Barnhart believes that this is the most important concept to cover with prospective teachers and technology. Classroom, and more importantly, online teachers must provide a personal “high touch” that engages students — especially those without motivation or direction.

Possessing all these eight skills will keep novice teachers, in fact, even veteran teachers, not to worry about technology. They can adapt well and perform their classroom work based on the 21st century’s work expectation!

Are your teachers ready? Educators, school administrators, parents, and other stakeholders need to know this!

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