Shift Happens: How Do We Make 21st Century Change in Schools?

Wednesday, November 11, 20155:05 PM



This year is my first as a technology coach in my school. So far, I’ve really enjoyed it. I’ve been able to help plan and facilitate professional development for a large staff and to have a hand in shaping the plan and vision for technology integration. I also spend half of my day teaching 10th grade English, so I’m able to tie my coaching and PD into my own classroom instruction. So far, so good--I thought. And then came the words that have been playing back in my head for a day now.

While discussing a plan for future technology PD, my friend Tina reminded me: “There’s more to instructional technology than tools.” Duh. I know that. If you’re reading this, you likely know it, too. But she was totally right--for whatever reason we weren’t talking about that. We were focusing on tools, resources, and sometimes skills, not shifts, pedagogy, or transformative learning. If I want to be a catalyst for change so badly, why weren’t these the conversations we were having? Why wasn’t I contributing to the bigger picture?

Maybe (and probably--I hope), I’m being hard on myself. I’m generally happy with the impact I’ve had so far. Teachers in my department are using technology meaningfully, purposefully, and regularly like never before, and I see change happening right now. But in planning the big picture, these ideas have been fairly absent. In August, I wrote a post titled 5 Big Shifts for My Classroom in 2015, explaining how I wanted to focus on student-centered learning, creation, connected learning, communication, and communities of learners. And in my classroom, I think I’ve had success. Now I need to apply the same goals to the big picture; 21st century shifts in my classroom are great but only affect my students. Shifts in teachers’ mindsets and practice have an exponential impact.

Change is hard. And it’s scary. Maybe I subconsciously shied away from what I know I know so well: change is uncomfortable but necessary. Good leaders help lead transformational change with buy in and payoff. Sometimes, that buy in will come from a tool that can save a teacher time or make their online work more effective. But that won’t prepare our teachers or students for tomorrow on its own.


Questions & Answers

I don’t really have any answers here, but I think I have some of the questions:
  • What are the most important shifts in 21st century teaching and learning?
  • How should professional learning, development, and coaching shift to help facilitate these changes?
  • What concrete strategies can coaches and leaders use to help facilitate these changes?

Without answers, all I can do is start small, and focus on the objective. I want to promote student-centered classrooms, with the purposeful integration of technology and active learning and creation. I want teachers to put their trust in students as self-directed learners, leaders, and creators, and to step back and facilitate their progress. Lastly, I want to see teachers and students communicate and collaborate because all of us are smarter than one of us.

As I thought about these ideas and concepts, I started to do my homework. Below, find a handful of articles that I read today that shed light on these ideas. Over the next few weeks, I plan to continue to develop these ideas and would love for you to add to the conversation.


Ken Robinson’s “Changing Educational Paradigms”





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