The practice of teaching has seen many integrations of technology—from pencil and paper, to radio and television, to slide projectors, calculators, and smart whiteboards. Each of these innovations were introduced to the profession as the “next big thing.” These technologies were going to meaningfully disrupt how we teach and learn. In the end, however, we have found that these technologies have been largely underutilized by teachers and students, perhaps with the exception of the calculator. The reason for this varies. Teachers are often undertrained on new technology or prefer more traditional methods. Limited school resources have also played an important role in how prominent education technology becomes in the curriculum. Today, the types of technologies available for instruction have changed drastically, but a “digital curriculum” does what these other technologies never did—it teaches.
With a single product, educators can introduce and provide lectures on topics, engage students in learning activities, assess them, and issue a grade. In addition, educators have access to data concerning how students are progressing in the content, both in terms of how much time they are spending with it and in terms of their understanding. It is these distinct differences, however, between the functionality of past and present technologies which differentiate past and present educator struggles. Teachers of past technology trends asked themselves, “How do I use these new tools to teach content?” Teachers who are facilitating a digital curriculum today ask themselves, “What is my role?”
The existential nature of this question should not be taken lightly. After all, if—like in the past—a teacher chooses not to use the technology, the school can utilize virtual lectures from certified teachers and assessments programmed to teach their courses. What we must realize, however, is that in this question lies a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: the chance to redefine the role of the teacher.
In light of how educator professionalism has been in question for years in social commentary, I call on educators to take advantage of the novelty of this new technology. Administrators, ensure your teachers become experts in blended instruction methods and provide teachers with the support they need to implement, share, and record their experiences. Teachers, carry out case studies of how you’ve implemented the technology, develop best practices and procedures that work for your students, record these findings, and continually add to this knowledge base by implementing previously developed methods and documenting variations and their outcomes.
Public schools have the unique ability to produce highly relevant research, being subject to the communities they serve, and with this, public school teachers can become thought leaders in education. By investing in a methods and lessons repository for the school to draw on, developed for and by the community it serves, educators can better meet the needs of their student population, and autonomy for the public school educator can become invaluable.