21st Century Literacies

Teachers Changing the Way We Read, Write, Think, and Live

Faulty Credentials?

How many teachers have you seen as a practical Luddite when it comes to using more than the chalk board or projector in class? I, for one, had a teacher, who in 2005 mind you, insisted on putting everything he showed our class on an overhead projector. I could barely stifle back my yawns. Surely there was a better way to engage the students about the formations of weather systems? An animation? A video? In Will Richardson's post, "Urgent: 21st Century Skills for Educators (and Others) First," Richardson identifies a problem that many educators face. In fact, it's a problem that I see in the classroom even today. Richardson takes teachers to task for preaching the good word of educating today's youth in 21st Century Literacy Skills, when the teachers themselves are not educated themselves.

How many times have you seen teachers trying to load a video or a PowerPoint presentation and stumble along the way, perhaps loading the wrong presentation along the way, or accidentally skipping ahead showing a part of a video that the students weren't supposed to see yet? This happens often. Anyone that was privileged enough to see Dr. Alan Singer's presentation about Pearson taking over education a couple weeks ago saw this. He is an intelligent man with a worthy cause, but he stumbled over his own presentation, having to defer to other teachers to set up his presentation for him. This takes the steam out of a presentation.

Richardson also tells stories of presenters having little or no web footprints. When he left a presentation about 21st Century Literacy Skills, he looked up a majority of the people he met. Only a small handful of them had a web footprint and connected with him via social media. How can these people be seen as tech-literate if they don't appear tech-literate themselves?

How do we combat this?

Teachers, not students, are those that need education. Richardson feels that the teachers that continue to teach our students are just as in need of this education as the students. This can be handled in a variety of ways. Those that attempt to use these literacies need refinement. One problem Richardson states is a "death by Power Point presentation style," which means the presentation needs sprucing up. One method is to view my presentation(Which will be linked here) on how to create an effective Power Point presentation. Another way to combat this is to have the teachers use different web 2.0 apps to present their lesson to their students. A teacher that uses PowToons or another similar program is sure to get the attention of their students, also learning how to use similar applications in the process.

To combat Richardson's problem of having a small or no web footprint, he suggests that teachers be heard. With a large number of blogs and Twitter available to the general public, modern educators should have an easy outlet to publish things. It also allows them to engage in professional dialogue.

There's no excuse!

It isn't a failure to admit that you need help. Coming from a different generation, it is sometimes harder to engage in modern technology, but as they say, practice makes perfect. There are plenty of other outlets, too. Twitter and blogs offer teachers up a more casual way to engage with others. A very useful tool for teachers is Twitter. When engaging other teachers in Tweet Chats, doors can open for educators that they never knew existed. New teaching methods, new types of lesson plans, or simply new ways to look at a problem they are having. Once you engage modern technology and new applications and programs for the classroom, new doors open. We are talking about the future of tomorrow, there is no excuse to be dragging our feet on a matter of such great importance!

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Comment by Kerri Valesey on October 28, 2013 at 9:11pm

BEN! Such awesome points that you make here. I think that modeling the kind of network connection that Richardson talks about can be difficult for some teachers because we don't always devote the time and effort to learning new tech-y things because we're afraid of failure. "There is nothing to fear but fear itself!" FDR said it, and yet there's still such a stubbornness in those who have been doing the same thing for so many years. I love that you talk about using Twitter as a resource! I've been learning so much from it, and I can hardly wait to incorporate it into my own classrooms!

Comment by Courtney Brown on October 29, 2013 at 11:36am

Ben,  great example regarding the power point fiasco at Dr. Singer's presentation.  It really does take away from the confidence an audience has for their presenter.  I believe within reason it is similar in the classroom.  There are times when educators can ask their students for help technologically, or even explore new types of media or software, but to be completely inept all of the time can truly turn off students.  I have enjoyed learning about all the different types of web 2.0 multimodes available to teachers and students to enhance the learning dynamic and you have offered a great deal of choices to your readers.  What web 2.0 tool have you gotten the most out of?  I think my ability to create my webpage last week with all of the links was the most helpful for me because now I can create my own multimedia hub for a PBL my program began this past month at BOCES.  My students are looking forward to using all of the web 2.0 tools I've introduced. :) 

Comment by Rebecca Welton on November 2, 2013 at 4:40pm

You make great points here. I think that part of the reason why some teachers "stumble along" when it comes to presentations is because they were never taught properly how to present using the format. I know for one thing that I learned PowerPoint by trial and error, and I am sure that others did as well. Teaching teachers might be a foreign concept to some educators, but it is necessary in order to have them grow to learn and love new technology. I also like your idea of having teachers use twitter in order to gain knowledge and assistance from one another. The idea of an interconnected community of teachers, young and old, experienced and inexperienced, helping one another to better themselves is an ideal dream, and twitter could help forward this.

Comment by John Brewer on November 7, 2013 at 1:20pm

Ben, I cannot agree with you more that is necessary for teachers to adapt to the new digital world in which they find themselves.  Maybe because I am on the fringe of the digital generation my tolerance level is nowhere near where should be, but in what world would teachers expect that their learning was done?  Richardson also discusses teachers as master learners in some of his other posts.  If we are to be successful teachers, then I think it necessary for us to further our education.  One hundred years ago, the classic canon was the mode of communication that educators became intimately familiar with.  Imagine a teacher during that time walking into a classroom, and having no clue how to address the students regarding the contexts and applications of the text.  Doing that with technology in today's educational system is much the same. 

Comment by Victoria Corning on November 21, 2013 at 4:31pm

Great blog post Ben! I completely agree that there is nothing more boring than watching a teacher write on a chalkboard, whiteboard, or overhead projector. As you said, there are FREE applications available, such as PowToons and Prezi (which I'm obsessed with) that engage students with colorful and moving visuals as well as sounds. I also agree that asking for help is not being a failure!  Many teachers still feel like they need to "know it all" when they should be focused on being example learners. New technologies develop everyday and its impossible to keep up and know absolutely everything. Collaborating with other educators is a great strategy to share ideas and educational tools, as well as finding out how to USE the tools you discover. Teachers can share resources that have become successes in their classroom as well as resources that have not been as helpful. Overall, great post!

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