Or... just because you saw "The Hunger Games," are you good at archery?
As the first waves of the "digital generation" enter the workforce, does their inherent technology skillset transfer directly into job-related tasks? This question has important implications for the 21st century classroom.
Today's beginning teachers bring with them an almost instinctive comfort with technology, in particular social media. It might seem simple to conclude they are ready and able to meld technology and pedagogy. But a recent article in Educational Leadership, from the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD), tells quite the opposite story.
In What's Missing from Teacher Prep?, Gary Chesney and Janice Jordan discuss the discontent that beginning teachers voice about their university-level preparation programs. Prominent among these is that, "the use of technology in preservice classrooms was limited, and training in how to integrate technology into lesson planning was virtually nonexistent." This concern seems to discount the digital native's instinctive ability to implement technology solutions. Instead, much like any job-related skill, technology integration must be learned and practiced. The authors recommend that teacher training programs "embed technology in their coursework in all classes."
This need for support and training extends to the classroom. Novice teachers face many challenges. The notion that they can independently design and implement high quality, standards-based lessons may be somewhat unrealistic. But well-implemented school and district-based technology integration plans can give teachers the support they need.
In North Carolina, the Rutherford County school system successfully implemented just such a program. The district's technology leadership team developed a comprehensive approach that included a 1:1 laptop initiative, SAS® Curriculum Pathways® professional development training, and direct support for classroom teachers to find, evaluate, and integrate high-quality digital resources into instruction. The end result was a huge leap in the use of technology in the classroom.
"More than half of Rutherford's middle- and high-school teachers use SAS Curriculum Pathways resources, and some use them daily," said Benny Hendrix, the district's Chief Operating Officer and Chief Technology Officer. During the 2011-2012 school year Rutherford students used SAS Curriculum Pathways resources more than 20,000 times.
The lesson seems to be clear. Assuming that 21st century teachers automatically “get” technology is not a recipe for success. Instead, teaching educators how to use and integrate digital resources, and providing a strong support system for technology integration, is the way to ensure that today’s classroom instruction meets the needs of 21st century learners.