Technology and the 21st Century Teacher
The central argument upon which I anchored my previous research work entitled “Factors Affecting The Use of Computers for Classroom Instruction in South Korean Universities”1 is “information technology has significantly altered the landscape of teaching and learning.” Indeed, it drastically changed the ways teachers taught and students learn thus school administrators and teachers need to respond accordingly and effectively.
At the turn of the 21st century education leaders have been reconfiguring educational paradigms that became almost obsolete because of the rapid changes in technology. Nowadays, emerging models of educational frameworks have included technology in both the expected outcomes and support mechanisms of the new paradigms.
The P21, a national non-profit organization that advocates for 21st century readiness for every student, developed the “Framework for 21st Century Learning” (F21CL) to define and illustrate the skills, knowledge students need to succeed in work, life and citizenship.2 The two parts of the framework (see figure below) are student outcomes (as represented by the arches of rainbow) and the support system (as represented by the pools at the bottom. One of the 4 clusters of student outcomes, is “Information, Media, and Technology Skills.” The article explains that to be effective in the 21st century, citizens and worker must be able to create, evaluate and effectively utilize information, media and technology.
And to be effective 21st century teachers, it has become A MUST that the teachers themselves should have those skills just mentioned. We cannot have “the blind leading the blind” scenario.
Schools need to respond by making the needed investment. They have to upgrade their existing facilities and purchase the necessary equipment in order to cope up with the demands of the new educational paradigms they have drawn up in order to keep abreast with the demands of the 21st century.
Not only in terms of equipment and facilities that the schools should focus on. They need to pay attention also to their manpower – particularly the teachers who plays the key role to ensure that success of the endeavor.
I made an assertion (in the previous work aforementioned) that integration of technology in instruction and assessment is inevitable and the teachers, being at the center of the delivery of learning need to accept it. The F21CL clearly defines the responsibilities of teachers (Standards and Assessment, Curriculum and Instruction, Professional Development and Leaning Environment.) Much of the responsibilities will be shouldered by the teachers. The said framework even specified clearly what is the role of teachers in the attainment of cluster 4 of students outcome – that is to “Enable innovative learning methods that integrate the use of supportive technologies, inquiry-and-problem-based approaches and higher order thinking skills.
But the application of technology in instruction is a contentious area that caused (or is causing) a lot of arguments and controversies in the academe. Despite the immense benefits that technology brings to education, some teachers are still either unwilling or hesitant to embrace the application of technology to the teaching-learning process.
I specifically identified also (in that same work) the pedagogical benefits that computers and internet provide. For example, the internet has become the teachers and students’ virtual library. Projectors and media players make the interaction between the students and their mentors more efficient. For the teachers in particular, the educational and organizational softwares and web browsers give them more resources and enable them to create better presentations.
But apparently, not all teachers are convinced. They do not believe that computers benefit teaching and learning. They are the ones who do not use presentation softwares preferring to either just dictate or write on the board everything they wish to convey to their students. They are ones who refuse to use available course softwares opting to just open the prescribed textbook and read from it while teaching.
There are two possible reasons.
First – these teachers were exposed to educational philosophies different from those of the ones to whom embracing technology is a welcome development . This could be the reason they have different attitudes and views about the value of computers in teaching and learning. Their educational beliefs just don’t jibe with using computers in the classrooms.
Second and last – they simply (heaven forbid) do not know how to use any office software suites (word processing, spreadsheet, database and presentations applications) and specific educational software provided for them. They have difficulty navigating around any computer-generated environment. They are so helplessly not computer-literate that no amount of tutoring would help them learn.
Presumably, the reason they could not use the prescribed course software packages (that make things easier for them and their students) is that they don’t have the ability to do so. Even if assuming a course software, at a particular time, suddenly doesn’t work, its contents can be copied and pasted to any presentation software. But that again could be another problem… they probably don’t know how to create presentations.
Worst, they could simply be just aversive to technology.
Or maybe, they are simply lazy. They are computer literate but are not willing to try new systems being introduced.
The question that begs for answer is, “How can a teacher without the required 21st century skills teach such things to students?”
Professional competence for teachers is continuously evolving as technology keeps creeping into the foundations of education. Alongside pedagogical skills, another skill through which competence of 21st century teachers should be gauged is how extensive and effective do they apply technology (computer) to teaching and learning.
Perhaps it’s about time that computer literacy be strictly considered when hiring teachers.
On the part of school administrators and owners, they have a responsibility of ensuring that when they introduce a new computer application of learning the teachers are given enough time and sufficient training to become familiar with it.
The following is one of the recommendations I made in a previous study I have been referring to.
“It should be noted also that among noted also that among the variables that are significant statistically teachers’ perception on the value of computers has the positive influence on their extent of use of computers for instruction in Korean classrooms. Thus, it is important for school administrators to keep that perception positive. The study also found out that a key factor in this positive perception is the teachers’ level of preparedness in using computers to facilitate learning. Being proficient in using computers is different from being familiar in using a new computer application for learning. Even the most proficient among computer users need time to learn an application introduced to them for the first time. Teachers tend to perceive the value of computers for classroom instruction negatively if they were not given enough time to acclimatize themselves with a new system being introduced.”
According to Edwin Creely3, “I was challenged by the ideas from Don Idle that we are textured for technology and that technology has always been and will ever be part of the deepest learning that we do. Learning to move technology and the digital technology of the 21st century into the heart of the learning process is an ongoing challenge for educators. So, the practice of being a literacy educator in the 21st Century must be, has to be, inclusive of digital literacies, including, most importantly, the use of social media.”
As Janelle Cox puts it, “A modern teacher is willing to try new things, from new educational apps to teaching skills and electronic devices. Being innovative means not only trying new things, but questioning your students, making real-world connections and cultivating a creative mindset. It’s getting your students to take risks and having students learn to collaborate.”4
(E.Creely)(https://www.researchgate.net/post/What_are_the_qualities_required_of_ teachers_to_teach_21 st_century_learners.
Remembering My Teachers
“What is done in the classroom today becomes the indelible memories of tomorrow.” – Robert Brooks
What do we remember most about our teachers? Is it their intelligence or their wit and humor?
Why do we say that we’ll never forget some of our teachers? What made it hard to erase them from our memory – the positive influences they exerted on us or the emotional wounds they may have directly or indirectly inflicted? Do they remain in our memory because of the words of encouragement they said that motivated us to excel or the mouthful they delivered with the meanest of intentions that destroyed (or almost destroyed) our self-esteem?
Do we recall the lessons our teachers taught in the class or is it the jokes they shared that we cannot forget to the point that to date those same jokes we also share with others?
Think about this – Is it our teachers’ impeccable display of mastery of the subject matter we remember about them or is it their compassion and gentleness that made us feel so comfortable in the classroom?
Being a teacher myself I often wonder what my students remember about me, or do they remember me at all. Imagine how many students I already had having been a teacher since 1988. Has anyone of them proudly announced my name when asked “Who’s your most favorite teacher?” or “Who among your teachers influenced you most positively?”
Constantly asking myself such questions makes me conscious about my performance in the class. Not that I wish to be popular among my students. Teaching is not a popularity contest. But if I get to be remembered by my former students, I wish that it is for the right reasons and not the wrong ones.
As part of my planning, each time a school term begins I make a conscious effort of remembering my former teachers. Why? My teachers in the past, aside from the subjects they taught, they directly and indirectly showed me “what to do” and “what not to do” as an educator. They contributed the pieces in the teaching-learning model that guides me as I practice pedagogy.
There are several teachers whose names were etched in my memory (although I wish to keep their identities under wraps except for some clues). There are a variety of reasons why after all these years I have not forgotten them.
During my PhD days at Bulacan State University I always looked forward to attending the classes of two professors. One of them taught me that “Whatever we don’t use will die of disuse.” and “In onion there is strength.” Yes, that’s onion… not “union.” The other one bragged that “His PEN IS six inches long.”
I didn’t consider their brand of humor offensive although I know some of the ladies in those classes felt uncomfortable whenever those professors deliver those double-meaning sentences. I am not sure what made the students pay attention to those professors – the ideas they were expounding or the jokes they interspersed in their discussions.
Even without those double-meaning sentences those two professors were really committed to bringing humor into the classroom. A lot of times that they shared hilarious personal stories. Three classes in one day, with each class 3-hour long, in the graduate school are stressful and the best known antidote to stress is laughter.
That’s what they did…gave entertainment on the side while we go through the rigors of graduate school.
But when it comes to sense of humor, no one beats my Psychology and Political Science teacher during my first year in college. Aside from his contagious smile, he had the knack for injecting humor during discussions. I remember him making exaggerated facial expressions and movements.
As Maurice Elias suggests, “Let’s add some more enjoyment to school. We don’t need guffaws — a smile and a little levity can go a long way.”
Let me just clarify that the said professors are not just humorous – they are very intelligent educators.
I was also blessed to have three teachers (one each in High School, College and Master’s) who modeled academic excellence. Each meeting with them was always an opportunity to learn something new. Of course I learned from all of my teachers and they all contributed to my development but these three are simply a cut above the rest.
Their common denominator is they never came to class unprepared and demanded nothing less from the students. They were demanding but were very supportive. I don’t know but there was something different in the way that they taught and the way they carried out their duties as mentors.
Because of this dedication to excellence, one of them (the professor in the Master’s program who influenced me the most), became “the avoided one.” Students, as much as possible, would avoid enrolling in her classes. They were students who wanted their grades to be given to them in a silver platter. They were the ones who consider a weekly reaction paper and several book reviews too much for a graduate student. For me, that was the challenge that I wanted to undergo to test my mettle, to hone my skills. I wanted to be deserving of any degree I would be conferred with.
That was the kind of attitude inculcated upon me by my High School Biology and English 2 (and 4) teacher. She gave us assignments and projects that I considered at that time as requirements done by college students. It was difficult but it prepared me to the rigors of college life.
Then in College I had this teacher who taught Shakespeare (and his plays) rarely bringing instructional materials to the class from beginning up to the end of the semester. She did not use audio-visual materials when teaching. She would just stay seated the whole period. But when she talked it was like listening to an audio book. There was never a question from us (the students) she did not satisfactorily answer.
However, I don’t remember the said teachers only because of their brilliance. I had a lot of equally intelligent teachers but whose names I could no longer recall. But these mesdames are different. They displayed enthusiasm while teaching. I witnessed how much they loved what they were doing.
I would also not forget my Grade VI adviser. I felt so sleepy in her class one day but I was trying very hard not to fall asleep. The reason was during my Elementary days, almost every morning I needed to wake up around 4:00 AM in order to sell “pandesal” (bread) before going to school so I would have extra allowance.
One day, while she was discussing I closed my eyes but I was awake. Then one of my classmates said, “Look ma’am! Ching (that’s my nick name when I was a kid) is sleeping.” My eyelids were a bit heavy so I couldn’t open my eyes immediately when I heard a classmate say that. Then my adviser responded, “It’s okay. Let him sleep for a few minutes. I saw him selling “pandesal” this morning.”
That for me was a display of compassion. My teacher did not get angry. She was aware of my situation and she tried to understand. Her simple act of kindness made me feel I am important. It started to develop my self-esteem.
Then I had these experiences with two of my High School teachers that reinforced my self-esteem. My English 1 teacher told me one day, “You’re performing well in the subject. Keep it up!” That was the first time I received a positive comment about my academic performance. Then my Biology and English 2 (and 4) teacher, the same one I previously mentioned, told me also that I can be a good student if I study harder. In addition, she told me that I can be a writer.
The words they said nurtured my self-esteem. The things they told me awakened a self-confidence that until now is alive and strong in me. The words they said encouraged me to excel.
Those teachers believed in me and I promised myself not to disappoint them.
In his book entitled “Self-Esteem Teacher,” Robert Brooks explained that “Teachers have a very significant, lifelong impact on all of their students. This impact involves not only the teaching of particular academic skills, but as importantly, the fostering of student self-esteem.”
What do I remember most about my teachers? What qualities did they have that made their memories persisted in my mind and continued to influence my practices as an educator?
It is their sense of humor, enthusiasm, dedication to the craft, compassion for the students, and the practice of praising students – of telling them what they are capable of.
The foregoing are the building blocks of the educational philosophy that I have embraced.
“Most children will not remember what a teacher taught as much as how he or she made them feel. Children who perceive themselves as accepted and valued will work harder and have positive feelings about their school experience.”
~ Leah Davies
Source: Remembering My Teachers
The Extra Mile Teachers Walk
Search any site in the internet for the highest paid professionals in the world and you will not find “teachers” in the top 30. Expand your search and look for the list of professions in different countries where the practitioners receive the best compensation packages and you will find out that teaching is not among them. You will not find a country where teachers are ranked among the highest money-earners.
Teaching not classified among the highest paying jobs, of course, is not surprising. That has been the case since time immemorial and it is not expected to change anytime soon. However, insufficient remuneration do not deter teachers from performing the role they have embraced. Such is only one of the steps in the extra mile that teachers need to walk when they have accepted that teaching is not merely a profession but a vocation. It is not merely a job to perform but an obligation to carry out.
Acknowledging that teaching is not merely a job but an obligation to carry out is what makes teachers go the extra mile, to do what is more than required in the performance of their tasks, including sacrificing personal resources…sometimes happiness. Teachers know the nature of the responsibility that they agreed to fulfill when they signed up for the job. They know it’s not easy. How in the world would one consider being responsible for the education of other people, especially the young ones, easy? When did it become easy to facilitate the acquisition of knowledge and values and the development of skills of your fellow human beings?
If only pay would be commensurate to how significant is one’s job in the enlightenment of the soul, the preservation and enhancement of the fabric of society, and the socio-economic development of a nation then teachers would get paid handsomely.
But it is what it is. Teaching is not a profitable profession. Realities teachers confront in the academe could really make them say a lot of things in the “present unreal conditional” form. There are times that they couldn’t also help but make a “wish-statement” like “I wish that I were a health care professional.”
Health care professionals (physicians, surgeons, anesthesiologists, dentists, etc.) consistently round out the top 10 in the lists of highest paid professionals.
What they (the medical practitioners) do, maintenance and restoration of good health, is very important. For that, they deserve the pay they get. But nurturing the human spirit…helping a person achieve holistic development is as equally important, if not more important. What professional endeavor could be more meaningful than helping your fellow men achieve their full potential for them to become responsible human beings and productive members of society?
And not only are the teachers not getting the pay commensurate to the importance of the work they do and the effort they need to exert when doing their job, they don’t also get the recognition they deserve.
American society, for example, does not generally view teachers in the same way, as they view other professionals; the belief that “anyone can teach” is not found in other professions (i.e., not just anyone can play professional baseball, or be an accountant or engineer, or practice law or medicine.)1
Such is the indifference teachers, as professionals, are getting.
How true is the contention that “anyone can teach?” Those who know what it takes to become a teacher would say it is a fallacy.
Education is not just a matter of whether you can teach or not but also whether or not you can make the students learn. Even if a person is an expert in a field of learning it is not a guarantee that he can teach what he knows. Knowing something is different from knowing how to teach it.
Hiring just anyone to become a teacher would be a huge mistake. It takes a lot to become a teacher. Teachers undergo rigid training for them to hone their pedagogical skills. They read a lot knowing that teaching and learning are both grounded on Philosophy, Psychology, Sociology and other related fields. They know they need to be familiar not only in their field of expertise but with different principles and strategies to effectively deliver learning and teaching. They know that when they are done teaching they still have to evaluate the learning.
The list of the things that teachers need to know and to do is long. At the end of that long list are two characteristics that teachers need to develop if they wish to succeed in the profession – PASSION for their work and COMPASSION for the students.
How then in the world it becomes possible that just “anyone can teach?”
Be that as it may, teaching will forever be a NOBLE PROFESSION! Nothing can diminish its intrinsic value.
One thing for sure, all the successful professionals in the world – business executives, lawyers, architects, engineers, surgeons, physicians, dentists, nurses, brokers, etc. – know that their teachers contributed a thing or two into whatever they have become.
1 Tichenor M.S., Tichenor, J.M. (2005). Understanding teachers’ perspective on professionalism. ERIC.