Are you a 21st century teacher?

I have been wondering about the thousands of complaints I get from my colleagues while I use technology in my classes or wheen I schedule an extra-curricular activity.Many of the complaints I get are about the “you excite the students too much,and they refuse to focus on the lesson”.I would agree that my colleagues’ complaints might be true to a great extent.I accept that the students get hyper-active and too enthusiastic to see what’s coming next even in my classes while using the computer.

I would ,however, redirect my colleagues’ questions and complaints to the following: Why do our students get too excited and active during or immediately after a tech-led lesson? Why do they lose focus in other classes, while they become totally engaged when they interact with technology? These are the questions we should ask ourselves instead of blaming technology for  causing unrest in our classes.

David Ausubel has long spoken about the zone of proximal devblopment within which our students learn,grow and get engaged. I tend to say that the “unrest” that takes place in our classes after a technology led lesson is due to the emotional and psychological unrest that has happened within the students’ inner selves.Being in a lesson that adheres to computers and web tools matches exactly the zone of the student ‘s growth;leaving that class into a chalk- led lesson retracts the student to stages well below his/her emotional,psychological and intellectual well-being.This is a reason already enough to shake the students’ state of the mind and to cause turbulance in our classes.

Our chalk’n lessons ,also,are a lot below Piaget’s stage of formal operations.I would go  further and say that today’s adolescent merits a stage special for his/her own age;they are not only able to operate “formally”, but they can also do operations a lot beyond what some teachers can do.I would’n expect a student that is totally familiar with web2 tools,video editting software,powerpoint slides and a lot more than that to focus on the stories of theMiddle Ages undertaken with “yellow” books and blackboards.If you want today”s student to get involved and engaged in your lessons,don’t blame computers or extra-curricular activities.Blame yourself,blame the chalk and find  a way out! That’s one of  the new teacher’s roles.Embrace technology;embrace your kids.

You would seem too old for those kids looking at you and never relating your lessons,your ideas,to their world.Their world is not  the one where you lived while at their age nor is it the one wheere you are now if you are techno-phobic.Most kids love fiction but not in the way they were told by their grand mothers around fire. Don’t forget that all of them have satellite dishes,and they watch most of their loved stories coming on air.So to make them engaged, do it in the same way.Teach them fiction,teach them critical thinking and analysis not the way you learnt it 10  years ago, but the way they live it today.

All the same,most of us think that extra-curricular activites are “extra”.It’s unfortunate that they are named so! Have you ever asked yourself why do students leave your class and join the “extra-curricular” activities room? Have you ever wondered why do they prefer the guitar,acting and singing to our regular lessons?

I suppose that these are the questions we should ask.We have to make our lessons more or less similar to the extra-curricular activites.Look at the things that you can bring in from those activities into your classes.There are so many things that attracts students to extra-curricular activities that you might use in your classes to make them loved by those you teach.Make your lessons a lot of fun;fun is not the opposite of serious work.Laughter shouldn’t be absent in your classes;if it does, then something serious is happening.Let students use technology,let them see a computer even for a while.

Students love to touch today’s gadgets.So why should you be scared of the mobile phone? Think of how you can use it to the best of your learners.There are plenty ways in which the mobile can be exploited in the classroom.The simplest is to use mobile dictionaries.Think about using the mobile video camera in projects.Give your kids the opportunity to see that the mobile is not bad in itself;what makes the difference is how you use it.Allow your students to see that the camera of their mobile can be used in taking pictures outside school and talk aboutthem in class.Give the students the opportunity to explore the audio recorder of their phones.It can be used to interview their peers and,and to record the teacher’s instructions….

Can you accept the label of “learner”?That’s what 21 st century teachers hould be. In the light of the huge techno-gap that exists between us and those whom we consider learners, an exchange of roles is nowadays cruciel.We have to listen to them and learn from them.There are plenty of things they can teach us every day,especially in relation to technology tricks.So why do you keep saying that you know every thing,and resist to assume the fact that they might teach us so many things?

So let’s make our life similar to theirs;technology rich.Let’s be global citizens the way they are! The job of the 21 st century teacher will not be that easy at all levels. We will face more misbehaviour if our teaching doesn’t match the students’ expectations. We will bee looked at down if we keep struggling with chalk;while those we teach are many steps ahead! They will abuse us with facebook and mobiles as soon as they know that they scare us.


About brahim

An ELT supervisor. Interested in social media, blogging and the use of ICT in language teaching.

Posted on January 21, 2012, in Teachers and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. This is a great article and it is very true. Students get excited and they are engaged with technology when you return to paper and pencil tasks, you have to build on the excitement which has already been created. I would love to read more about your observations using technology.

  2. I also think that the way we teach is important. Nowadays young generation can’t imagine their being without new technologies which are an integral part of their lives. We, teachers, should remember about that and do our best in developing our IT skills, being web literate to be interesting to the students we teach and learn from them at the same time.
    The thing is that any development takes time and efforts. Not everybody is ready to commit.

  3. FANTASTIC ARTICLE! You’ve made so many worthy points on this topic, and your warm, yet persuasive tone, is just what is needed, particularly to differentiate between the good, perhaps even timeless, pedagogy we should hold on to and the methods, materials, etc that we can’t possibly expect students in 2012 (and beyond) to go for. WELL DONE!

    what is I agree with each and every one of these points and

  4. Many of my students have a fear and loathing of technology because in their experience Technology has let them down time and time again as “Murphy’s Law” (if it can go wrong, it will) has held sway in their lives whenever they’ve relied on technology. i’m working in a developing country in an emerging institution where connectivity, hardware, software, and virus issues abound. There just aren’t enough physical resources around for the students to have equal access to technology so there are the haves and they have nots. This has caused heartache in the past and led me to design my courses to be far less reliant on technology than i would otherwise want them to be, but i think my students all deserve to play on a level playing field.

    • That’s a great idea Rob!I agree with you;so many people are still technophobics,and this is abundant among the administration staff more than among the students,at least in my case.Concerning materials,I also have conditions similar to yours:we have only a multi-media room in my school,and so not all students have the opportunity to use it when they need it.There is ,however, a laptop and a data-projector which I can take with me to my classroom and use it when I want to.
      When I say “technology”nit doesn’t always mean internet connexion and a computer for every student;we are far from having this state in our schools in developing countries.There are,however, simple tools which students can explore such as their phones,which they alml have here,and ipods….Using technology/the internet doesn’t always necessitate having the internet inside the classroom;there are so many ways in which students can complete tasks in a cyber café,where they usually go to chat!
      So I suppose that it’s the creativity of the language teacher that is really in control here.

  5. Thanks a lot for this thought-provoking post. I do agree with many points mentioned in it. However, I have some slightly different views on some others. There seems to be an underlying assumption throughout your post that our students are a sort of geeks while most teachers are technologically lagging behind or even pre-tech creatures that should find a place next to dinosaurs in one of them museums of natural history;-) Though there’s some truth in such an assumption, but it can’t amount to an unquestionable and factual truism. Being digital natives is not enough for our students to qualify as digital learners. To my utter astonishment, many of our students’ tech knowledge is so superficially basic and poor!!! They do, of course, know how to text and chat!! But, knowing only that is an injustice towards the endless possibilities new technologies offer 21st century learners. Teachers of my generation and certainly yours are to be called digital immigrants only if they do run the risk of embracing the technological novelties and the so many mouth-watering i-products. A sad fact is that still many teachers who are supposed to be agents of change show a ferocious resistance to this inevitable change! The reasons for such an attitude are, of course, so varied. Technophopbia is probably at the forefront. Enjoying the comfort of doing the same so called “risk-free” monotonous tasks day in day out is certainly another reason which makes new technologies still a persona non grata in our classrooms. On the other hand, there is a quite considerable growing number of digital immigrant teachers who are befriending ICT and making good use of it to tweak their teaching as well as boost their kids’ learning. Let’s hope for an exponential growth of ICT users in our schools. However, allow me to stress that new technologies should not “delete” and replace book and paper learning modes. They should rather coexist with what’s already existing and has proven to be effective in helping teachers accomplish their tasks. Hybrid learning would be a much better option. ICT should be used only when we are sure it will maximize learning and turn teaching less stressful. Again, teachers should show their students how to better use ICT to improve their learning. In fact, the emphasis must be led on digital skills that primarily foster learning. And talking about learning, allow me to say that I’m in no way ashmed or scared of the label “learner”. On the contray, I believe that a true teacher is the one who considers him or herself a life-long learner.

    • Thanks a lot Mr Arbi for taking a portion of your time to read and comment on my post.I do agree with you that a large number of teachers are migrating towards the digital teaching/learning spheres especially in EFL.I am afraid ,however, to say that in so many other subjects,teachers still resist using tech due to what you have called technophobia,I think.Teachers of this type are of course lagging far behind their students in matters related to technology.We all know that there still big numbers of teachers who can’t even send an e-mail.Many others still know nothing about facebook eccept that it’s a place for “stealing” other people’s photos….

      It’s so sad that our schools and some of our teachers are tech ignorant in an age where other ountries are moving from web2 towards mobile learning;and we keep speaking about educational reform and change!

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