How Has Teaching Changed?

If you’re a teacher who is trying to encourage other staff to use ICT, you have probably heard this before?

When do I have the time to learn about this?

Learning through Twitter, blogs, online conferences etc is just part of my day-to-day life as I have described in this post. This is extremely foreign to many teachers.

I began teaching in 2004. Today I had a conversation with someone who began teaching in 1984 who explained that for the first fifteen or so years of his career, there was no professional development. It was a common belief that teachers already knew everything. Work at home involved correction; not the sort of professional learning I engage in these days.

I have the feeling there was a belief in the past that taking work home to correct was a sign of a good teacher?

Today I see a commitment to lifelong learning, professional reading and collaboration as the sign of good teaching (among many many other things!)

While I don’t discredit correction, I prefer to do it as the students are working so they are involved in the process and get immediate feedback. A perfectly organised, complete and corrected exercise book does not strike me as evidence of ideal teaching and learning in 2010.

Something just clicked today that made me think that teaching has changed. Some teachers have made this change well and others have not.

How do we help teachers realise that an investment in self-motivated learning is now unavoidable if you want to provide the best possible 21st Century education for your students?

How do we help them leave their baskets of workbooks at school and say hello to someone in Twitter, read a blog or dabble with a web 2.0 tool?


Image: ‘AHO0711-003 Ingrid Alice wearing a Mariusgenser’
AHO0711-003 Ingrid Alice wearing a Mariusgenser
Image: ‘Flat Classroom Skype’

Please leave a comment with your thoughts!

19 Replies to “How Has Teaching Changed?”

  1. Hi Kathleen,

    Some of your readers may know that we team teach and the two of us discuss this issue regularly at school, but I am glad you have now written about it too. Hearing what others think about the notion of self learning and developing our skills online with other like minded teachers will be interesting.

    Teaching is such a fast-paced job, and even within the past seven years that I have been teaching, I have seen great change. I was telling my grade two students just yesterday, that up until a couple of years ago, I never would have involved blogs, iPods, Skype, IWBs and Google into my work program, but now that is commonplace. In fact, if you were to take these teaching tools away from me, I am not sure what I would do!

    Did I attend PDs to learn about the value of these teaching tools? Ocassionally. But those isolated PD sessions weren’t as valuable as learning from other teachers, doing my own extensive research online, reading blogs and getting online to chat with you Kathleen, about great tools or websites we had found.

    We want our students to accept change and become 21st century learners. Do we want our students thinking there is only one way to do things? No, we want them to embrace change and take risks. So it’s essential that we are role models for them, and demonstrate that learning is ongoing and can be done anywhere, at any time. And usually, that is on the couch at home with a laptop in front of me! 🙂


    1. @ Kelly,

      Teachers need to get out of their head that PD isn’t something that is done to you, it’s something you can seek and personalise to your own needs.

      The risk taking behaviour you describe – having a go – is really something that teachers need to demonstrate. Teachers also need to realise that they don’t have to remember everything, they just have to be willing to have a go and there are plenty of people out there across the globe who can support you!

      Having a “broken” IWB this term, I really know how much just that one tech tool can enhance the classroom! I think I would give up teaching if I couldn’t use any technology!

      Thanks for your comment!

  2. Dear Kathleen
    I started teaching in 1979, at the age of 19 and a half, and have been in the eduction system since then, with 3 short breaks of up to a year each.
    I would never want to reach a place in my teaching where I thought, “This is it, this is the way I will always do it.”
    What happens in classrooms should be forever evolving.
    We began to have computers in our classrooms in the mid to late 80s. At that time a small one-teacher school 20 minutes away was rumoured to be using the internet and it really was quite a foreign concept.
    Then we went through the years of ICT development clusters, with a lot of skill-based training eg making files, photos, learning to e-mail etc.

    Last year I got an interactive whiteboard, which this year led me to starting our blog page. It has been an exciting year of learning to use Web 2.0 tools myself and using them with the children, and finding out what works best with children of varying ages.

    Our school motto is ‘Engage in life-long learning’. Very apt.

    your friend in teaching and learning
    Judy McKenzie

    1. @ Judy,
      Thanks so much for your insights into the changes you’ve seen. How interesting! I have witnessed many of these changes myself but as a student, not a teacher! I was shocked to read a school was using the internet in the 80s, wow!
      I’m so glad you have such a positive attitude towards learning. It’s been great getting to know you this year!

  3. Kathleen, thank you for writing this. I think this article brings up an important topic – the media has rapidly changed over the last 6 or so years, and teaching has changed along with it. I started teaching in 2004 as well. Even in the past 6 years I have seen immense changes to both students and teachers. 6 years ago a technology leader in the school system knew how to hook up a sound system and get printers to work. Today a technology in a school/system is almost a social media expert.

    In recent history the technology has changed western culture so drastically. 10 years ago the internet was everywhere – people logged in to get information. Today, the internet is everywhere, and people stay connected, creating information. Our students are not just consuming information, they are creating it – and for a very real audience. Teachers are doing the same, both in their personal lives and now more so professionally on twitter and in the blogosphere. Social media has given teachers an outlet for reflection, a place for professional dialogue, and an opportunity to learn from our colleagues around the world.

    Maybe not all teachers are on board with using social media themselves and preparing their students to do so in an academic way – but they need to be. Professional development has become very important over the past 10 years, and self-curated (social media based) PD will be (I think anyways) the trend for the next 10 years.

    1. @ Daniel, very well said!

      The way you describe a tech leader in 2004 compared to now is so true!

      You’re right – teachers do need to get on board. As I said to someone on Twitter – you don’t know what you don’t know and the ironic thing is, I’m preaching to the converted here! The teachers who need to be reading this won’t be.

      Change in education systems seems to be slow – I’m impatient! I want more teachers to embrace the fantastic technologies we’re already using!

      Thanks for your great support.

  4. Well said. If teachers are not learners themselves, especially in these days of fast paced change, they might as well give up and go home. I have been teaching for a looooong time and I can tell you it has nothing to do with age or how long you have been teaching. The 4 biggest drivers of change in my school are aged between 40 and 60. We are constantly learning and sharing our learning. 3 of us are on twitter. 2 of us blog. All of us read blogs constantly and interact online in a variety of ways. I am convinced that this is the best way to learn today!

    1. @ Edna, I’m so glad you said that because some people like to use age as an excuse and it is not true! I also no many many young teachers who are not interested in pursuing their own learning.

      Was their a point in your teaching career when you noticed the change – like was there a time when you realised you had to start looking for your own information and educating yourself?

      I’d love to know!

      1. I have always been a learner, ready to try new things. And I have always liked technology and was one the first to use the computers at school when we first got them.

        But I think the biggest change for me has been in the last few years when I started reading blogs, then later blogging myself and best of all discovered twitter. You can read about the start of my tech journey here…

  5. Hi Kathleen,

    Colleagues often ask me how I have gained my knowledge of ICT and I always tell them that go searching for it. Training sessions don’t often work for me. I prefer to play with new technology and learn along the way. I think this is a just a sing of growing up in a different time. I am not afraid to try new things. Technology does not bite! But, a lot people who have been teaching for a longer time seem to scared of it. Students today have never lived in a time without computers, ipods etc, we owe it to our students to incorporate these things into the curriculum.

    1. @ Angie, I can relate to that so much because I get the same question – how do you know that? People assume I might just know the information or I have been privileged to some sort of formal ICT training but it is none of the above! It’s a willingness to play, have a go and learn from others!
      As Edna said, however. We need to let people know that age isn’t an obstacle and they can’t hide behind that!
      Thanks for your support 🙂

  6. I couldn’t agree more Kathleen. I remember when I was an NQT (Newly Qualified Teacher) and you were often sent on these professional development courses and you learnt lots of new things about ways of implementing new strategies in the classroom which you then may or may not have done. Now don’t get me wrong, at the time they were quite useful, but more often than not, they didn’t have an impact on my teaching. Nowadays however, I’m engaging in my own self-directed PD on a daily basis and most of it one way or another ends up being used. Partly because I have searched for it and therefore I’m pursuing my own interests and secondly because it’s not a course that has been rehashed year after year with little change – it’s relevant to now, not last year.
    When I was in England, I believed the only way to get PD was on a course. Moving to NZ and engaging with other professionals around the world has really opened my eyes and transformed my way of teaching and thinking.

    1. @ Sarah, I think schools and districts are slowly starting to realise that off-site, one-off PDs aren’t really the way to go. The trouble is, so many teachers don’t have the knowledge or motivation to seek knowledge and collaboration the way we do.

      Hopefully we can help spread the word! I’m like you – getting to know people around the world really has transformed my teaching!

      Thanks for your comment!

  7. Hi Kathleen,

    I have written on a sticky note on my desk – ‘How my teaching has changed – blog post!’ So you can see my reaction of ‘Wow we are on the same wavelength!’ when I saw your post! But now I can share my thoughts in response to your blog post instead of writing one myself.

    I meet with a teaching friend once a week for dinner. We don’t and never have worked in the same school. All we do is talk ‘school’ and we LOVE it! Sharing ideas, thoughts and having meaningful conversations about our profession.

    Last week over dinner I was reflecting on having two student teachers in my class the previous weeks. It got us thinking back to what we were like in our first years of teaching.

    We both laughed that other teachers had told us we wouldn’t always have to do this much planning and that when we got ‘experienced’ all we need to do is write what topic we are doing in a plan.

    I have been teaching 10 years now and I spend just as much time planning! I must admit what I planned has changed. Rather than breaking down each of the steps of the concept I want to teach I ask questions of myself instead.
    – What do I want the kids to achieve?
    – What questions will I ask to enhance learning?
    – How will I know they have achieved the outcome?
    – How can I ensure all of my kids are engaged?
    – Do I need to personalise this lesson for some children?
    – How will I differentiate the learning?

    As you can guess, these can’t be answered in one sentence on my planner. And I certainly can’t remember how I am going to do all of this after yard duty!

    Therefore I still plan. And I still plan extensively. It is the emphasis of my planning that has changed.

    And the reason it has changed is because I have sought professional development. I have listened to others and am open to trying new ideas. I ask for help when I need it and I reflect on how I have taught and how I can do it better.

    I know that I will continue to change and continue to seek professional development. And I will do this because I believe in Education!

    Thanks for a thought provoking post.

    1. @ Mel,

      Wow, yes we are on the same wavelength! Don’t let me stop you if you would still like to do a post about the same topic though! 🙂 We need to share these sorts of messages with as any people as we can!

      What an insightful reflection about planning – I recall similar discussions come to think of it! While the ideas flow more easily now (I have many more ideas than I can handle), the intricate planning of lessons really does grow! As you said “it is the emphasis of my planning that has changed”. Also, now I am more fussy. I don’t want to do something with my kids unless it is really going to meet their needs and engage them. I cringe to think of some of the lessons I would have done when I was first starting!

      I too, can credit PD as the reason why I’m so reflective on what I’m doing. Additionally, team teaching this year has been fantastic. Having a like minded teacher (Kelly Jordan) to bounce ideas off means we can really create a program that is meeting our kids needs and engaging them.

      I think everyone’s teaching is enhanced through collaboration and it is just fantastic that we live in an age where rich global collaboration is possible!

  8. Dear Kathleen,

    Thanks for addressing this important topic.

    We are living in an amazing time in history! The idea that we can tap into any type of learning at any time is remarkable. As a veteran teacher, I have a lot of experience with PD over the years. Throughout the 80s and 90s it was a “one size fits all” approach. Whether you taught kindergarten or high school, we were often thrown into a giant hall and given all the same professional development presentation.

    Within the last five or six years, I have seen my district move to more of a menu style approach. They will have breakout sessions where teacher can pick and choose what interests them. That has been a step in the right direction…tailoring it to need.

    Within the last two years, I have come to understand that PD is available 24 hours a day! There isn’t a scheduled time and place like in the past; it’s there for anyone when they have the time. I love that I am able to individualize my learning and tailor it to my own needs/experience. My time is used effectively.

    Another valuable aspect of online PD is that is provides opportunities for teachers to learn new technology skills. By joining Twitter, or following blogs, or entering and Elluminate room to listen to a presentation, a teacher strengthens his/her technology skills.

    Perhaps teachers think they have to know everything before they get in front of the kids. Maybe they think they’ll loose control or not look like the “teacher” if a technological glitch happens. That fear is again addressed with teachers using technology for PD. The more practice, the more comfortable you are is technology situations.

    As Kelly said, we must be role models. If we want students to be life long learners, if it really is something important to strive for…then model it!

    Thanks to Kathleen and all the commenters. Loved the sharing.

    PD is not done to you…That’s a great line!

    1. @ Linda,

      Thanks for your comment. It’s great to hear from people who have a lot more experience than me and who have seen so many changes with education.

      It’s fantastic schools are starting to realise the one size fits all model to PD just doesn’t work….much like the one size fits all model to classroom teaching.

      You’re right the just by spending time online, you pick up skills along the way. I think there are still a lot of teachers who think if they avoid ICT it might just go away!

      As you said, there are also a lot of teachers who think they might look silly in front of students. An older colleague once told me that teachers of the past were seen by students and the community as the experts and it is very hard to change their mindset to learning with the students; more of a co-learner or facilitator.

      I’m glad I ventured online, otherwise I would have never met you!

  9. Interesting Reading! I graduated in 1983 and have been involved in Professional Development of some kind since day 1!
    I think that lifelong learning is an attitude – though I must admit I did think I knew EVERYTHING when I first started out – that soon changed – probably when I wrote my first report cards!
    Every year I learn something new – I like to experiment. I have always been an advocate for ‘hands on’ activities and ICT devices are another tool to get kids involved.
    I have learned about the brain with John Joseph, behaviour and learning with William Glasser and Philosopy in the classroom with Philip Cam.
    This year someone mentioned ‘blog’ and ‘wiki’ so I set out to learn what this was all about! I have learned by experimenting of course (being a hands on person) and have now shown a few other teachers how to set up a ‘virtual classroom’. You are quite welcome to view my wiki where I am storing a collection of digital resources-
    Presently I am experimenting the use of ‘Moshi Monsters’ at school – and am very pleased with how things are going.
    What I am trying to say is that some people see themselves as ‘life long learners’ and value the development of this in students, others value what they perceive is ‘right’ – and it may be ‘right’ for them.
    It’s all about Pedagogy and your view of the world.

    1. @ Anthea, thanks for your comment and the link to your wiki. I shall check it out. I’m really interested in your Moshi Monster project as it is really popular with my Grade Two students, however it has recently been blocked at school.
      I really love being a life long learner. It makes every day so interesting and rewarding.
      Keep up your great work!

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