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The Suburbanite
  • 21st-century teachers learn to adapt

  • Five teachers from Jackson Local Schools shared their views on what has changed in their classrooms over the past few years.

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  • Going to school these days encompasses more than just learning the standard three Rs – reading, ’riting and ’rithmetic.  Teaching, as a profession, has also changed. From teaching an international perspective to integrating mobile technology, today's classroom has seen a few transformations.
    Five teachers from Jackson Local Schools shared their views on what has changed in their classrooms over the past few years.
    MAJOR CHANGE
    A few of the major differences in teaching and learning in today's classroom include students being more participatory in the classroom and the need to include an international perspective.
    Kacy Carter has been teaching more than nine years with six of those years invested at Jackson High School. He teaches history in the Jackson Academy for Global Studies (JAGS).
    “Broadening the horizon by bringing in the international component is the biggest change I've experienced over the past several years,” Carter said. “That international perspective allows us to explore how U.S. history interacts with the world. Plus, the business world is global and we are trying to prepare our kids for the new worldwide marketplace.”
    Jennifer Koladin teaches 12th-grade dual enrollment English where students earn college credits. She's been teaching for 15 years and has taught students as young as sixth-grade all the way through college. This is her first year at Jackson High School.
    Koladin feels many of the changes she's experienced started back in the early 2000s with the No Child Left Behind initiative which brought about more accountability for teachers.
    “There has been a lot more accountability in place and that's a good thing,” Koladin said.
    But that’s not all.
    “Several changes teachers have to deal with today include the fact the country is part of a global society and every country affects every other country,” Koladin said. “Students are more participatory and more exploratory and they take more charge of their own learning. And, technology has changed many aspects of teaching including the way students communicate with teachers.
    CLASSROOM TECHNOLOGY
    Andrew Robitaille, information and media specialist at Jackson Memorial Middle School, has been teaching 10 years, half of those years have been at Jackson and half at a school in Australia. He has seen an increase in teachers and students using portable and mobile technology in just the past three years.
    “We have a younger teaching staff and they want to use the technology, which has created such a demand for computers from both teachers and students, that we continually run out of computers,” Robitaille said.
    To accomodate that, “the district implemented the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) in January of this year,” Robitaille said. “Using mobile devices has made a huge difference for teachers and students. It makes a difference in ad hoc teaching and kids working on projects in classrooms. Students are so used to having those devices they just work on them naturally.”
    Page 2 of 3 - Robitaille said the three biggest changes include mobile access to technology, wireless access has opened all kinds of doors and students' expectations have changed so that they expect to be active in their learning and participating instead of passively learning.
    Matthew Ziders has been teaching seven years with five of those at Jackson Local. He teaches math at the high school and has also taught math at the middle school. Ziders agrees that the biggest change he has seen is the use of mobile devices in the classroom.
    “Using mobile devices increases every year and it's important for teachers to understand the technology that kids are using in order to meet their learning needs,” Ziders said. “I think in the next 10 years we'll see the printed textbook disappear from the classroom and instead we'll use digital textbooks.”  
    Gretchen Hull has been teaching 14 years – all at Jackson High School. She teaches science and ninth-grade biology. When she started teaching she said the classrooms had chalk boards, today SmartBoards are in the classrooms.
    “Technology such as SmartBoards and mobile devices have changed the classroom and drives almost every teacher's instruction,” Hull said. “I think that the technology may intimidate some of the seasoned teachers but once you get used to it, the technology helps. The students like for the teachers to mix the technology in with their teaching methods. The kids are brutally honest, today. They'll tell you if they like what you're doing or not.”
    Other technology changes all of the teachers talked about included the use of teacher websites, emailing and texting students and the use of mobile apps. They all agreed that much of the technology has helped teachers by decreasing time for planning and in other ways. From the student's point of view, the technology has opened up access to the teachers and has provided more immediacy to receiving information such as grades, assignments or feedback.
    “Technology opens up many opportunities for learning never before available to kids,” Robitaille said.
    LEARNING TO ADAPT
    There's a saying that the only constant in life is change. All of the teachers said that educational professionals have to accept that changes will continue and that they have to continually adapt.
    “As a teacher,” Hull said, “you can't get comfortable and stay in place. We could be teaching something different next year in a completely different format, it's the nature of the career.”
    Koladin agrees with Hull and emphasized that change is constant in education and teaching. One thing that never changes Koladin said is that people learn from people.
    “Changes are something teachers have to deal with all the time. If the changes are based on good research that shows the changes will help students learn better, then everyone is in it together,” Koladin said. “The students don't notice the changes as much as the teacher. The school districts are probably most affected by the changes because they have to communicate those changes to parents and the community.”
    Page 3 of 3 - Carter stated today's changes are good for students, especially those that give the kids the chance to see more of the world.
    “We try to incorporate travel both in the U.S. and overseas into our JAGS program,” Carter said. “In my history classroom, we look at how U.S. history topics are viewed by other countries. One example is how Great Britain looks at the Revolutionary War. Generally, students like changes that create a bigger view.”
    Carter shared that he feels Jackson Local Schools works hard on doing what's best for the kids. Changes such as incorporating travel into the curriculum, working with local businesses to help better prepare students for work, and the BYOD all add different perspectives which in the long term benefits the students.