Every job requires problem solving. The year was 2010. My school district was telling teachers to teach students for the 21st century. I wish we had a different name for this educational change because my freshmen students laughed at the idiocy of announcing to the community that we are ten years behind schedule in preparing students for the 21st century. What can I say? The kids are better in math than the educational leaders.
Embracing the idea of teaching with technology, I decided to create a blog where my students and I could discuss Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird. Within minutes, I ran into problems.
Problem 1: I have never created a blog.
Solution: I researched how to do it.
Problem 2: Not all students have a computer at home.
Solution: We could utilize one of our two computer labs in school.
Problem 3: I have to share the computer labs with the other 100 teachers in the school. The chances of getting all of my classes in the computer lab consistently were less than the Cleveland Browns winning the Super Bowl.
Solution: Students who had laptops could bring them to class, and we could utilize our school’s set of laptops.
Problem 3: Laptops are not allowed in school, and half of the school’s laptops did not work.
Solution: I would talk to the principal and technology support department. I learned that laptops were not allowed because our network could only support about 200 wireless devices. I learned that the laptops were on the list to be repaired; however, with only three technology employees for a district with “over 14 modern facilities educating over 10,600 students making it the 18th largest school district in Ohio.” (Pickerington Local Schools)
Problem 4: I learned that all blog sites were blocked by our school’s filter.
Solution: I went “old school.” I gave each student an index card each day to write a comment or response to the reading assignment. We then shared them in class and posted them on the wall in my classroom. The next day, kids could respond to something someone else said, or they could create a new response.
Many people like to compare schools to business. I don’t think a business would ignore the technological needs of its workforce like schools do. Nevertheless, let’s say they do. The primary focus of the business would still be on the customer or to make money. For anyone to improve, he or she needs to be able to create solutions to problems and then do what it takes to get the job done. Even if it is “old school.”
My solution, which I used in B.C. (before computers), made students think critically, write well, and respond to others in a respectful, thoughtful manner. We just had to do it the old-fashioned way, with pen and paper. These are skills that students will need to possess in this century.
Since the school is unable to teach or use computers easily, the kids who have access to technology at home will figure it out (a valuable skill) on their own. They will be digital miles ahead of the kids who do not have the resources. It is ironic that schools, which are suppose to level the playing field for all learners, are creating a bigger rift.