When I started teaching, some twenty-five years ago, the IT department of a school was most likely staffed by teachers who took some kind of interest in computers. Consequently, they would end up being the most qualified on staff to lead that department and teach the technology curriculum. We have come a long way in the last two decades. Now, rather than needing to be staffed by default, school IT departments have become an integral part of every aspect of our educational institutions. In fact, much of the current soul-searching we are experiencing in education is driven by our need to integrate technology further.
Although we often think of educational institutions as places where students learn innovation and creativity, where they acquire knowledge and skills, and where they prepare for life in the ‘real’ world, it would be fair to say that education is one of the areas that have been most unwilling to change and adapt over time. The exponential growth of technology is forcing it to change – its centuries old structure is no longer fitting with our current reality.
Sir Ken Robinson is one of the most recognized figures in the current reevaluation of education. His work relates to three main themes1: we are living in times of revolution, we need to think differently about ourselves, and we need to think differently about our organizations. These themes are affecting everyone – educators, students, parents, governments, industry leaders, etc. How are you, as an educator, adapting to current times of change? What will be your role in newly defined ways of educating students? Are you focused forward or resisting change?
The challenges brought by technology, if considered from a different perspective, are actually gifts that have the potential to actualize human potential like never before. The ability to derive meta-data can help to personalize instruction in ways that can create engagement and relevance for every student. Gamification is most likely to address issues of motivation in young learners. More and more individuals demand personalized forms of consumption and this will soon spread into education. Big corporations are addressing this through personalized marketing and this practice is becoming the norm.
New methods of delivery allow for learning to take place anywhere on the planet. EdX, Khan Academy, and Udemy are examples of platforms that are showing that it is possible to effectively accommodate virtual learning. Most tertiary institutions have invested in creating platforms that allow for distance learning – a new form of consuming educational product and services that is proving to be very lucrative for them. It would be foolish to think that the outdated structure of education will survive the ongoing soul-searching. Some are finding it difficult to imagine anything different. Keep in mind that things can change fast!
A friend of mine was a graphic designer who was trained decades ago. Before the accessibility of computers and software as we know it today, pictures were taken, developed, modified, fonts needed to be figured out, layout of text was a challenge, and so on. A project that took weeks to complete back then can now be completed by a grade 6 student in an hour or two. My friend spent the last decade of his career bitter that his skills and knowledge had been made redundant by a few software packages. Of course his experience counted for much but people were no longer willing to pay top money when they felt they could produce results themselves on their own computers. His unwillingness to change made him redundant!
The future is most likely to see personalized content and delivery become the norm. We already have the technology to accommodate this type of learning. Denial is not an option. Rather than fear these empowering changes, use them to motivate yourself in continuing to be a life-long learner.
There are many ways that you can be at the forefront of changes in education. There are an unprecedented number of teachers who are choosing to become entrepreneurs. In its redefinition of what and how we teach, education is rife with opportunities to the would be ‘teacherpreneur’. Expanding your teaching into one of the major online platforms is one way of reaching tens of thousands of students, and this comes with the ability to monetize your efforts. Consultancy is another area that becomes more accessible as the Internet allows you to market yourself in ways that were not possible only a couple of decades ago. There are many companies already offering support to teachers who choose the entrepreneurial path – a quick Google search will keep you busy figuring out which one is best to accompany you on your journey of expansion.
Change is always a difficult process for many and a golden opportunity for a few. Be one of the few and expand your skills, knowledge and opportunities by embracing some of the changes currently happening in education. Remember one of the many graduation speeches you have heard during your career – you know, the ones that encourage students to take wings and fly into exciting future possibilities. Be one of those people who do just that. Make a difference in education by daring to challenge yourself into helping define the new educational paradigm currently emerging in the world!
Michel Leroux is an international teacher who has taught mathematics in nine different countries. He is the co-founder of Educators Home Share (www.educatorshomeshare.com), a home sharing platform that caters to educators worldwide. He currently lives in Indonesia with his wife Christine, who is also a teacher.
Note 1: http://sirkenrobinson.com/work/