My role as an educator is to both prepare students with the skills and knowledge for an undefined future, and engage them to take ownership of their own learning. The following mission statement aims to excite other secondary educators, as it identifies and addresses crucial areas of need during the secondary years. Educating students for the future is anything but explicit, and there is increasing demand to be technologically literate.
Parker J. Palmer advises in The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s Life that “if students and subjects accounted for all the complexities of teaching, our standard ways of copying would do” (2007, p. 2). He suggests that new tools and methods must be adopted, as they always have been, to best prepare our students for the 21st century. He continues to suggest that we should “keep up with our fields as best we can and learn enough techniques to stay ahead of the student psyche” (Palmer, 2007, p. 2). Awareness of best practices in 21st century learning, with respect to creativity, communication, critical thinking, and collaboration is crucial (Learning, n.d.).
Not only is the ability to implement digital technologies important for the future of our students, but educators must also embrace the current state of our student’s online use. The Pew Research Internet Project finds that “nine in ten (93%) teens have a computer or have access to one at home” and that “78% of teens now have a cell phone, and almost half (47%) of those own smartphones” (Madden et al., 2013, para. 1). This serves to inform us that we must develop goals and curricula that meet the needs of students as they currently require it.
Unfortunately, there is limited research to guide the best practice of digital literacy. Mark Ribble contends, “educators need to look at these changes as opportunities to bring the concepts of technology and educational theory together” (2013, p. 142). With an ever-changing landscape, educators must use personal judgment to inform their use of resources.
Currently, students have limited digital literacy. As The Pew Research Internet Project found, “students increasingly ‘equate research with Googling,’ and use search engines in lieu of more traditional sources without sufficient ability to judge the quality of information they find online” (Purcell, Heaps et al., 2013, At times section, para. 1). We must focus on the unique needs of educating an audience that is ready to build upon their limited background knowledge and grow into young adults with the added skill to trust their own judgment.
With respect to collaboration and creativity, The Pew Research Internet Project also found that “78% [of educators surveyed] agree … that digital technologies ‘encourage student creativity and personal expression’” (Purcell et al., 2013, The AP and NWP section). The increased purposeful implementation of technology can allow mundane tasks to fall by the wayside, while personalized opportunities for growth and exploration rise to the surface.
The ability to be creative is fostered by an educator’s ability to tailor learning to student need. Marc Prensky writes in Teaching Digital Natives: Partnering for Real Learning that, “The greatest single boon of the arrival – albeit slowly and unevenly – of digital technology in our schools is that it will, in the long run, enable teachers and students to partner in this much more personal and individual way, that is, for students not just to ‘learn at their own pace,’ as is often heard, but to learn more or less in whatever ways they prefer, as long as they are in pursuit of the necessary and required goals” (2013, p.17). The opportunities for personalized pace and focus are improved by digital technologies.
I am passionate about this mission statement as it is fostered by my first-hand experience with the daily shortcomings of current digital education practices. I strongly believe that the mission statement outlined below is attainable and understandable. I hope to further provide examples of how these guiding principles can be tangibly seen and experienced in a school setting.
Charge secondary educators to be both stewards and explorers in the use and implementation of digital resources. Educators will engage their students to utilize technology for engagement and creativity, and empower them to navigate the digital sphere with a discerning, critical and forward-thinking perspective on digital participation.
Secondary Educators will…
- Teach students to investigate resources online with a critical eye, discerning relevancy, accuracy, and reliability. Impart background knowledge of information storage practices prior to the digital age.
- Take advantage of digital learning as a useful means of engagement at the secondary level.
- Take risks to supplement instruction for individualized student need, finding new and meaningful uses for technology that will inform differentiation practices.
- Be empowered to be independent and purposeful curriculum builders and implementers.
- Guide students to understand how digital education can provide outlets for both self-expression and creativity in learning.
- Encourage students to be confident problem solvers in an ever-evolving landscape by taking risks in their use of emerging online technology.
- Encourage students to have a critical-eye to the needs of the future, as opposed to living in the fads of technology.
- Educate fellow instructors on the unique and critical role of teachers in the implementation and sustainability of digital education for the future.
Growth and Development
- Utilize current research to inform best practice for student growth and development needs, in an effort to maintain a balanced and blended-learning approach, encompassing the best of both traditional an brick-and-mortar learning and digital education, to holistic education.
- Model for students how to build identity in a participatory culture by being contemplative in their choices and participation in online communities in an effort to maintain perspective on future identity.
- Seek out unique solutions to access inequalities, by providing high quality educational resources for all students in a school community.
Learning and Innovation Skills. (n.d.). Retrieved November 24, 2014, from http://www.p21.org/about-us/p21-framework/60.
Madden, M., Lenhart A., Duggan M., Cortesi M., & Gasser, M. (2013). Teens and Technology 2013. Pew Research Centers Internet American Life Project RSS. Retrieved November 16, 2014, from http://www.pewinternet.org/2013/03/13/teens-and-technology-2013/.
Palmer, P. J. (2007). The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s Life. San Francisco, CA: Josey-Bass.
Prensky, M. (2010). Moving To The Partnership. In Teaching Digital Natives: Partnering for Real Learning. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Corwin Press.
Purcell, K., Buchanan J., Friedrich, L. (2013). The Impact of Digital Tools on Student Writing and How Writing is Taught in Schools. Pew Research Internet Project. Retreived November 17, 2014, from http://www.pewinternet.org/2013/07/16/the-impact-of-digital-tools-on-student-writing-and-how-writing-is-taught-in-schools/.
Purcell, K., Heaps, A., Buchanan, J., & Friedrich, L. (2013). How Teachers Are Using Technology at Home and in Their Classrooms. Pew Research Internet Project. Retrieved November 11, 2014, from http://www.pewinternet.org/2013/02/28/how-teachers-are-using-technology-at-home-and-in-their-classrooms/.
Ribble, M., & Miller, T. N. (2013). Educational Leadership in an Online World: Connecting Students to Technology Responsibly, Safely, and Ethically. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 17(1), 137-145.