Duane B. Karlin
As I drive, I use my rearview mirror to see the traffic around me so I can make educated and intuitive decisions. While looking in this piece of glass encased in plastic and mounted on my windshield, I also notice the landmarks and features I have passed along the way. They are familiar, yet perceived as somewhat foreign because everything is reversed. It is through this observation that I can still recognize where I came from and assess where I am headed, making minute (or drastic) adjustments, in order to stay focused on my objective.
This analogy of how I use my rearview mirror to analyze my surroundings also serves as a manner in which I can reflect on my goals. I originally wrote my goals in late January of 2011. I had some ideas of the benefits of using technology in the classroom, but aside from using a SMART Board as a glorified projector and computers for reading enrichment, I did not know how to integrate these tools into my teaching, if it was even possible. Web 2.0 applications? I understood their purpose and what they could accomplish, but I had serious reservations that they could be successfully used in a school. And with elementary age students? This seemed highly impractical.
I had originally not considered the possibilities of elementary age students fully utilizing technology. I thought that the concepts and ideas of producing and contributing rather than simply consuming information would be too overwhelming. I could not conceive a student at this age maintaining a blog or recording a podcast. I was wrong. They have the skills and determination to undertake and succeed with these ideas. They may require more initial guidance, but their thoughts are equally valid as those of older students. And while using technology with this age group may not focus on creating a unique blog post or debatable podcast, it gives them the opportunity to share their knowledge and experiment with the technology and begin to grasp its unlimited potential.
Working through this program has been a demanding, but intensely rewarding experience. I still hold true to my original goals of creating immersive, technologically rich experiences for my students. With the knowledge I have obtained through my studies, I am more confident in delivering this content to all age groups, particularly elementary age students, rather than restricting myself to older learners. They are ready for these challenges; they just need a mentor to guide them.
As I complete this final course toward earning my master’s degree educational technology, my initial goals have not changed dramatically. What has changed is my perception of students’ capabilities. They truly are “digital natives,” as Marc Prensky astutely named them in 2001. Today’s students are fearless of technology and are willing to take risks and dive into challenges that may intimidate many adults. Their work deserves to be displayed on a platform that extends beyond the walls of our school. They are a part of a new culture that is irreversibly connected, so to deny them this aspect of their lives for the hours they are in school is a great disservice.
As I glance in my rearview mirror, I can see how the landscape has changed. However, it is still a recognizable place where I want to live and grow.