The word ‘evolve’ means to come forth gradually into being; develop. Develop gradually, especially from a simple to a more complex form. As I think about my own educational journey over the past twenty-two years, I have experienced my own evolution as a professional especially with the integration of technology in my practice. Personally and professionally I am still evolving and developing my learning every day. During my years as a teacher when I infused technology to differentiate learning in my classroom, I experienced students who were more motivated, engaged and felt passionate about their authentic work. Watching students collaborate in teams to create something new was truly transformational for me. My passion for technology and helping other educators integrate technology tools into educational practice started during my first years of teaching.
I believe an educator’s role is to partner with students to create content, assessments and authentic learning experiences that are relevant and meaningful. Learning should not be passive. New knowledge and learning should be actively constructed and should “create a culture of learning in which students feel autonomous, masterful, and purposeful.” (November 2012 p. 13)
Students should have control over their learning and be able to think about what they are going to learn, how they are going to learn it and how they are going to show their learning. If educators keep these questions in mind while designing their curriculum and use the 21st century tools available today, they will evolve as educators which in turn will help them transform their current practice. Students “want to have some ownership in the learning process, and they want their work to have purpose.” (November 2012 p.3-4)
21st century learning to me means that students are connected to other learners and resources throughout the world preparing them to become problem solvers and communicators. They construct their learning and have relevant, authentic work and assessments. Students are comfortable collaborating with others in and out of their classroom. They have good digital citizenship and know how to use multiple technology resources. Students also show creativity, problem solving and leadership. 21st century students know how to explore, have curiosity about the world, are accountable and know how to take initiative. “Thanks to technology and the Internet, all children now are children of the globe, not just children of the neighborhood where they live.” (Jacobs 2010 p. 107) My definition of 21st century learning evolved through my own educational experience, professional readings and research.
In the research, Creating Technology-Enhanced, Learner-Centered Classrooms: K–12 Teachers’ Beliefs, Perceptions, Barriers, and Support Needs, it suggests that there needs to be “strengthened links among technology, pedagogy, and content.” (An 2011 p. 60) Many times technology integration professional development and training focus on knowledge and skills rather than the relationship to pedagogy and content. The research suggests that “it is possible that teachers who are learner-centered in philosophy are teacher-centered in actual practice.” (An 2011 p.60) The research suggests that teachers build communities of practice, social networks or collegial groups to develop their own network of influential colleagues.
Teachers’ practices and thoughts are shaped by others and their opinions and values. The communities could help explore new methods of teaching and tools to help each other. Networking or observing can provide ideas for updated practices in a learner-centered classroom. Teachers may also gain confidence by building communities of practice. (An 2011 p. 61) Communities or social networks I recommend are:
Educators and students are able to share content, connect with and learn from one another through these social communities and networks. “It is the greatest time in history to be in a classroom because learning technology is changing at an exponential rate, and our students can thrive with it.” (Jacobs 2010 p. 197) We can continue to develop and transform our teaching practice if we connect, learn, and share with others. Let’s continue to evolve.