Posted on October 19, 2009
Teaching for the Real World: Incorporating Relevant Topics and Technology
(This is an assignment I just submitted for my education class. I’ll warn you, it’s a long post)
Just over a year ago I decided I wanted to pursue a career in education. Since then, many people have asked me why I wanted to become a teacher. At first, I was not entirely sure why I wanted to. I would tell them that I wanted to make a difference, to work with children, to have as many holidays as possible, and to be able coach sports. Don’t get me wrong, those are all things that still motivate me to become a teacher. However, now I attribute my desire to teach to something much different: I want to be a better teacher than my teachers ever were. My teachers were behind in the times and did not always have the passion and enthusiasm I hoped for. I do not feel that they prepared me to live in the world of today. I can barely apply anything I learned in school to the real world and I am very inadequate when it comes to using technology. My students will not suffer through an education experience similar to mine. I will be a better teacher by using relevant, real-world problems and examples and I will incorporate the incredible tools of technology that are at my disposal.
For me, the most difficult aspect of school was applying what I was learning to the world I was living in. Whenever a classmate of mine asked “Why are we learning this?” we typically got a response similar to “because it will be on your exam”. What motivation is there for students to retain knowledge if the only reason they are learning is because it will be on their exam? Students do not want to learn what will be on their exam, they want to know how it connects to their lives in the “real world” (Burden, 2000). If a teacher can illustrate a purpose to a particular lesson, the students are more likely to dig deeper and expand their interest in the subject matter (Curtis, 2001). Eventually, using this approach will encourage students to make connections to other lessons they have learned and apply a greater amount of knowledge when trying to solve a problem (Curtis, 2001).
This lack of real world applications will be addressed when I begin to teach. If I can give my students reasons to learn, they will retain their knowledge rather than dismissing it immediately after their exam (Curtis, 2001). I will give my students the framework to apply everything they learn within the walls of my classroom to the vast world outside of those walls. I want my students to be able to do more than pass the final exam; I want them to connect their classroom experiences to their real-world experiences (Linking the real world, 2002). It makes sense to say that “lessons related to real issues in a community have greater meaning to students than textbook ones” (Linking the real world, 2002, para. 17). When students can build on their education outside of class, school will feel like less of a chore and will be more exciting. Learning will become an everyday practice when students can start applying their school knowledge outside of school.
Having real life applications to schoolwork will unquestionably motivate students to learn. Elliot Solloway, a University of Michigan professor, suggests that motivation can also be increased when technology is implemented into lessons (Kiedrowski, Smale, & Gounko, 2009). Tools like the internet can be used to link students to the real world (Linking the real world, 2002). These tools make teaching more effective and interesting by better illustrating concepts and help appeal to the imagination and creative minds of students.
Technology is a bigger part of the world than it has ever been in the past. In the 2004-2005 school year, there was over $7-billion spent on technology in the United States (Leonard & Leonard, 2006). However, most technology still sits and collects dust (Leonard & Leonard, 2006). When I was a high school student, technology was a large part of my everyday life, but never a part of my education. Perhaps my teachers weren’t confident or educated well enough to effectively use the tools available to them. According to Leonard and Leonard, many teachers have struggled to advance past the initial stages of using technology and ultimately have difficulty seeing its potential to boost their teachings (2006).
Some people argue that technology is not needed in education. Some say the best teachers use very little technology while others argue that it disrupts the classroom environment (Leonard & Leonard, 2006; Kiedrowsk et al., 2009). This may be true; however, technology is here to stay and is currently transforming our world (Leonard & Leonard, 2006). Should education not reflect this worldwide trend? Teachers need to begin finding ways to use technology for educational gains instead of ignorantly banning it (Kiedrowsk et al., 2009). New technology needs to be used to its full potential because students will be using it for the rest of their lives (Leonard & Leonard, 2006). For example, if a student is capable to accurately and professionally T9 text message a colleague in the future, they will have one more essential workplace skill than a peer who did not have the opportunity to learn this skill in their education (Kiedrowsk et al., 2009).
As a teacher, I plan to utilize technology to its full extent. I do not intend for it to compensate for my shortcomings, but rather for it to complement my abilities. It will be my responsibility to use technology appropriately and to ensure that my students are educated on how to use it safely and effectively (Kiedrowsk et al., 2009). In the United States, the Congress’ Office of Technology Assessment believes that integrating technology into classrooms is the most important step for developing students to live in the future (Leonard & Leonard, 2006). If a class can be made more exciting through the use of multimedia or projects made more fun with technology, why not use it to do so? Teachers should be doing everything in their power to make learning more exciting and interesting for students.
I do not want my students to have a discouraging education experience like I did. I want to make their schooling fun, exciting and practical. My students will be prepared to live in the real world outside the walls of my classroom. By encouraging my students to connect what they have learned in my class to their real life, they will be better prepared to handle real world problems on their own. I will give my students the tools to succeed by exposing them to the incredible technology of the world and encourage them to use it in a safe, effective, and creative manner for their entire lives. I want to be the teacher who makes school relevant to the real world.
Burden, P. (2000). Powerful classroom management strategies: motivating students to learn. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications Inc.
Curtis, D. (2001, 11 1). Real-World Issues Motivate Students. Retrieved October 18, 2009, from Edutopia: http://www.edutopia.org/start-pyramid
Kiedrowski, J., Smale, W., & Gounko, T. (2009). Cellular Phones in Canadian Schools: A Legal Framework. Education Law Journal , 19 (1), 41-62.
Leonard, L. J., & Leonard, P. E. (2006). Leadership for Technology Integration: Computing the Reality. Alberta Journal of Educational Research , 52 (4), 212-224.
Linking the real world to the classroom. (2002). Retrieved October 15, 2009, from Teaching Today: http://www.glencoe.com/ps/teachingtoday/educationupclose.phtml