Re-envisioning Practice in the Classroom: The “Big Shifts”

Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms, a book by Will Richardson, contains a chapter dealing with “Big Shifts” as a result of the read/write web. The tenth of these shifts outlines the responsibilities that will fall upon the classroom teacher to help make transitions away from the “chalk and talk” model education is leaving behind- some might say in the “chalk dust!” His case is for teachers to become leaders by example and to foster these behaviors in any willing colleagues. Below are the main points he offered for consideration.

Contribution, Not Completion, as the Ultimate Goal

“[T]eachers will have to start to see themselves as connectors, not only of content, but of people.”

“[T]eachers must become content creators as well.”

“Teachers also need to become true collaborators.”

“[T]eachers need to think of themselves more as coaches who model the skills that students need to be successful and motivate them to strive for excellence.”

“[T]eachers who use the tools of the Read/ Write Web need to be change agents.

Richardson, Willard (Will) H. (2010-03-01). Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms (p. 153-156). SAGE Publications. Kindle Edition.

How has this shift affected your teaching practice so far?

Most notably, this affected me by leading me to feel in my teaching an absence of the ideals tied to the words in bold above. As a result, I find myself on adventures like this one, getting a second masters degree to acquire more knowledge and background in these kinds of contribution, not completion learning environments—to learn how to be a connector, content creator, collaborator, a coach and an effective agent of change.

How do you expect it might affect you in the future?

I am teacher who began his career 15 years ago in a classroom that contained a computer connected to the internet for the very first time. Prior to the week I began at that school, no computer had ever been in that classroom. In the front of that classroom was a record player and a chalk board and an overhead projector. Currently in my classroom, I have a laptop which is interfaced with a sound system that plays every sound file stored on the hard drive in the form of an mp3 file. I have an interactive whiteboard (coincidentally, covering the old chalk board), a digital projector, document camera, USB condenser microphones, and a myriad of other technology that was impossible to consider 15 years ago. This past year for the first time I taught an entire course online. The first time I’ve ever instructed a student and graded them and have never met them! I have been practicing the ideals that Richardson is calling for and I expect that in the next 15 years I will continue to do that. I expect that the landscape and scheduling will change. I happen to full agree with this statement: “The neatly organized four-or eight-period day, 180-day school year may no longer be the most effective structure to teach students in a world filled with easy access to information.” There are many reasons that the current school year/day model runs counter the 21st Century Skills teaching and learning.

In general, I expect that my place in education will shift along with the 10 that Richardson mentioned.


How can you use technology to facilitate this shift in your own classroom?

These shifts have been occurring in my classroom for a decade and a half. I will continue to embrace and incorporate new technology that serve the learning of my students wherever possible. In my face to face music classes, I hold back a bit because I believe the power of music making on the most basic human level needs to be learned in the absence of technology and approached without electronic assistance in much the same way we learn to interact through gesture and language.

Music, in my opinion, must be approached in a way that will truly connect the learner to the act of music making without an intermediary technology to interrupt that connection. There is something very different from playing a xylophone on an iPad screen when compared to holding a mallet and playing an acoustic xylophone in person. I believe the iPad experience is inferior, and much less appealing to our humanity. In protecting this somewhat sacred experience, I must keep some distance especially for the younger students. The older the students get the more open and welcoming I am for technology, and collaboration to be more and more a central part of our learning together.

One thought on “Re-envisioning Practice in the Classroom: The “Big Shifts”

  1. Even though I only started 8 years ago, I also have found a drastic change in the classroom. The change has definitely been towards a more technology based, collaborative environment and I definitely, like you, going to embrace this shift. I strive to be a connector, content creator, and true collaborator that Richardson refers to in his reading. Thanks for sharing!


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