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April 25, 2007

Your Own Unique Educational Situation


"Children are already accustomed to a world that moves faster and is more exciting than anything a teacher in front of a classroom can do."
Major Owens


We live in a world where modern media reigns supreme. Our students spend a large portion of each day watching TV, going to the movies, playing video games, and browsing the World Wide Web. Modern special effects can dazzle the eye. The contemporary American has a very sophisticated eye for visual learning. This is the world we live in, and our students have known nothing else.

Yet for all too many American students the K-12 classroom and classroom instruction has not changed at all in fifty years. The saying is that if Rip van Winkle came back from a decades long nap in 2007, the only thing that he would recognize as unchanged is the local high school classroom. In many schools chalk boards are only now being replaced by white boards. Richard Geib was astounded in 2000 – at the end of the first big Internet boom – when director of technology Ted Malos proudly announced that every teacher would now have their own telephone in the classroom. (“Wow! We are now only twenty five years behind the rest of the country in technology!” I thought to myself.) Currently, digital projectors are only beginning to move into classrooms in elementary and secondary classrooms in a major way. Teachers are still all too often considered mere deliverers of technology rather than creators of it. A common refrain one stills here in the American educational landscape are “teacher proof” lesson plans made by some textbook company or other.

But the rise of cheap and powerful digital technologies gives every classroom teacher the tools and power to make their own high quality curriculum. We don’t have to wait for some media specialist from Houghton Mifflin to make it for us; we can do it ourselves just about as they can. And when it comes directly from the teacher who will deliver the lesson plan, it almost always will be stronger and come across better to students. The pre-packaged textbooks and canned “teacher-proof” lessons are while not horrible never really outstanding. Why should we settle? Why should our students receive less than our very best? Why should the practice of the teacher be less than the product of decades of high-quality, custom curriculum practiced and honed to near perfection?

Hollywood spends millions to develop a movie using some of the most creative minds in our society. Under fair use guidelines, we can use limited sections of for classroom instruction. With an affordable digital camera and editing software, we can even make our classroom into a movie studio. We can project images and maps and painting and music into our classrooms. Multimedia is an incredibly powerful tool in the hands of a skilled, creative, and reflective education professional.

Yet each of us finds ourselves in unique educational situations. Teachers in a low achieving school with a high population of English language learners living in poverty will have different needs than another classroom somewhere else with very different students. Elementary teachers have different needs than high school instructors. Those who instruct adults have their own unique needs and requirements. Each class we find ourselves teaching will be populated by different kids with unique interests, talents, and weaknesses than the previous classes. So we adopt our lessons to the unique needs of our students.

What do the students in your classroom need? Where would you like to develop new lesson plans and instructional multimedia? What lessons do you already have that you would like to strengthen?

Please go ahead and respond to this blogsite posting by next Wednesday May 2, 2007.


"Teacher, help us to learn as well as we can!"'