Choosing a different path for our students
We met some amazing EdTech innovators and educators at this year’s ISTE conference. In the weeks since leaving Chicago, it has been such a pleasure to continue conversations and build relationships with these folks. One such inspirational educator is a woman named Chevin S. Stone, of Gary, Indiana. She is a science teacher turned EdTech consultant who started her own business called Solve 4 Why because she saw a mismatch in what was happening in schools and what could be happening in schools. Ms. Stone and I spoke again last week after spending some time at ISTE chatting about the power of 21st century education leadership, and how important it is as we work to ensure our students are truly ready for the 21st century. We asked Ms. Stone to share her why for moving away from the classroom and taking the risk of becoming an independent education technology consultant.
Taking the leap
I am a science teacher on permanent hiatus. On September 15, 2017, after 14 years in the classroom, I just didn’t feel like I was teaching the correct group of students anymore.
Three years earlier, I’d completed my Masters of Education program in Educational Technology at the American College of Education. I had, after years of consideration, experiences in the classroom that inspired me and observations that frustrated me. I decided to get my graduate degree in this particular subject because I saw something happening in education that I felt I could help facilitate. Innovation in the world as we know it is happening quickly. Innovation in education isn’t moving fast enough to keep up. I understood why this was happening and I wanted to help move things along.
Our Current Situation
Most education agencies in the United States are still being run by, and students are being taught by, adults born in the 20th century who are accustomed to stringent, 20th century teaching methods implemented in unremarkable, drab 20th century school buildings. The parents of these students born in the 21st century function with 20th century mentalities about how we should be teaching, even as they expose their children unknowingly to 21st century norms of learning and themselves are learning in a new way. Shareholders in the community know what they need from graduates. They are racing so quickly toward the future themselves, and they are unable to match the needed skills to what is and will be happening in the workplace. It’s a messy situation.
A New Paradigm
As educational technology has become a bigger part of the learning and teaching process in our schools, the gaps in skills for our educators and the divides in availability for some of our students are becoming the biggest barriers to how our precious 21st century students need to begin learning. There is a lot to think through and consider in terms of how to change education. There is also a lot of fear that EdTech, in its current form, only embraces the very thing we complain about (standardization- 1.). There is some truth in this, yet it is our job, as leaders, to calm these fears and control how technology is used in the classroom. Educators need empathetic, non judgmental guidance toward the new way of learning and teaching. Identifying leadership within buildings and districts who are willing to help show the importance of learning for educators, either through self-guided, one-on-one or group settings, is one step to moving forward. Providing resources for these emerging EdTech leaders to teach, lead and support their staff is another. Behind the scenes, districts must support their IT departments as they build strong infrastructures for this type of teaching and learning to occur.
There is still much more to do, we know this. Strong communication between all stakeholders, appropriate management support, educator resources for learning and teaching and having a plan to make it all work are the bedrock of creating an effective learning environment for our 21st Century learners.
I’m excited about how what I do will make this all happen. We can do this, we’re educators after all, right?
Chevin S. Stone
1. “Google, ISTE, and the Death of EdTech – Noteworthy – The Journal Blog.” 30 Jun. 2018, https://blog.usejournal.com/google-iste-and-the-death-of-edtech-42d2f7325b56.