A Look At The Past - Excited About The Future

Technology in teaching has hit a peak that is really exciting.  I have been doing some research lately and the new technology that has been exploding outwards from the net has become quite remarkable.  Seven years ago when I worked at a charter school devoted to technology, I never thought that the technological landscape would look like this today.  At the time we had the usual Microsoft suite and two other programs, Study Island and A Plus learning systems, and I had felt that they had left something to be desired.  A plus really was like an online textbook and Study Island had games the kids liked to play, but most pushed through the activities to play those games.  Little did I know that those programs were the tip of the iceberg that would be produced over the next seven years.  

At the time, I had felt that teaching didn’t look like the model we were using then.  There were teachers who set up their whole year designed for students to just blow through the modules in A Plus, check them off on a sheet, and never said boo to students.  It seemed like teaching wasn’t really happening to me and that students were being left to fend for themselves.  I had a lot of traditional ideas in my head back in those days.  I was fresh out of school and I felt I could do better with my personality and my lectures on history.  Lectures had always been my favorites, but I did run into problems with the fact I lectured a ton.  I had one student who would ask me all the time, “What are we going to do today, Mr. Schwarten?  Notes?”  I really was that predictable.    

I know I had little in terms of resources, but I do think those kids deserved better than what I gave them.  I think that if I had to do them over again in today’s technological climate, I might have thought outside the box more.  I didn’t know how technologically good I had it.  EVERY STUDENT had a COMPUTER!  EVERY SINGLE STUDENT!  Today I have to fight for the laptop carts that take years to load up and the computer labs are always full with testing or something or other.  I recently chuckled to myself on how I was recently wishing I could use technology almost on a daily basis in my classroom when seven years ago I had it all.  I had gone full circle.  Typical me.   Timing has never been my strong suit.

I think today about what I could accomplish using Google’s suite of programs.  Or what I could do using some of the modern day apps or websites that have since been built.  There is some really cool stuff that has been developed.  Students can now create movies, play a myriad of games, have all kinds of videos at their fingertips, and can even see those notes online that I forced them to write down daily of which I wrote on a whiteboard, since I didn’t have a projector.  What was wrong with me?  Why I was mentally stuck in the Stone Age then?  I really have no answer for my lack of creativity.       

I almost wish that I had the technology of those classrooms back so I could work on helping kids learn using the new technologies available.  I don’t really want those days back, when I made little money, was under constant stress, saw some things that would scare people in the military, and was so unsure of myself I constantly second guessed everything I created.  Somehow I made it through all those crazy days in that school year and came out a better teacher for it.  But there is a part of me that wishes I did still have those computers…  I guess we win some and we lose some.  

When I moved down to Maryland I ended up meeting some people that challenged my thinking about what a classroom should look like and how to use video games to teach students concepts.  I am sure those kids I had in 2007-2008 would have loved Civ Lab, but I simply wasn’t ready to try those things yet.  I will always remember those kids though.  I was thinking about how they all should have graduated high school now, since they were in 8th grade then.  I hope they found their place in the world or went to college.  Maybe they will be a part of the next generation of teachers that will use the technology I wasn’t forward thinking enough to try.  

I am not sure where I was going to end this ramble, but below are a few site that social studies teachers should try out.  They are not all going to be home runs for you, but shouldn’t we all by challenging ourselves anyway?  I find that in the classroom I get really bored doing the same old thing.  I know if I am bored then the kids are probably bored as well.  Or maybe it is just me trying to engage my own brain.  Either way I think trying out new things is probably better than trying to ram notes down people’s throats every day.          

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