Wednesday, May 27, 2009

What Makes a Great Teacher a Great Teacher in the 21st Century

Classrooms are not idle places. Sure, they may look bare in the bleary 7AM morn and eerily desolate come 7PM. But they are places full of spirits -- spirits of students and teachers past, present, and future.

Education doesn't happen because those rooms are filled, education happens because those spirits are fulfilled.

And those spirits are ever in flux between states of known and unknown. Even the occasionally insolent ones can turn on a dime and suddenly become stars given the right tools and proper motivation -- the knowledge not of encyclopedic histories and perfected answers, but of the courage and understanding of how to light one's own supernova.

And that brings my mind to experimentation and educational technology and what makes a great teacher a great teacher.

When it comes to educational technology, the great teacher isn't the one who merely uses technology in education. The great teacher is the one who experiments and who teaches the spirits within students to experiment. The great teacher doesn't follow the rules. The great teacher doesn't go along with the program. Like a gleeful hacker, the great teacher turns Twitter into a reference library, chat rooms into exit tickets, Skype-casts into global awareness sessions, Wikimedia into a living breathing history of human events, and Pandora into the clothes of sound that wrap around culture and keep us warm on darkest nights.

Great teachers don't follow corporations and their politik of textbooks and proprietary courseware to a best-of-all-worlds dead-end. Great teachers have read their Voltaire. They know a con when they see one.

Great teachers recognize that the real thrust of Web 2.0 is not in getting students to understand the material but in getting students to engage the hidden material within themselves and to thus have body and soul to tear into the heart of human content with such intellectual ferocity that the wolves and beasts both of moonlit night and boardroom conversation quake in the wake of a mighty woken mind.

And in this Digital Age -- an age that will see not the eternal content and themes of humanity disappear, but the methodologies and shrill mechanics of the bygone 20th century and its still-birthed assessment of the almighty bubble shrivel up and fade away -- great teachers will turn again like Socrates to the colluded crowd and in this, our "doomed fad", smile the smile of the blessed.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. My comment isn't directly at the article: I posted something at my blog for my band students to read. (Hard to go paperless when you must have music for students-laptops just don't fit on stands yet)
    What I'd posted was a link to a local newspaper's website for an article about a trumpet playing policeman on the force (good enough to play with Tower of Power once in awhile!) see article:

    Many students were moved as they read that article and commmented-as young as 4th grade!
    It really made me glad I'd taken that first paperless step to include the outside world into my rehearsal hall!

  3. How can I be a great teacher in the 21st century when the majority of the great tools are blocked?

    I'm actually pretty proud of myself. I single handedly got Vimeo blocked in my district. I uploaded 4 short video files to Vimeo during my lunch hour for a grad. class I teach. The next day, the site was blocked.

    What were the videos? Porn? No. E-portfolio help videos created using Screen Flow. Block someone who is creating helps for students and future teachers. Nice!

  4. I work in a higherED institution and blocking technologies has been the nemisis of teaching in the 21st century. It takes people like you to change the thought process (if there is any) of IT. Educators need to control content, not devices, networks, and IT peeps!

  5. I think one of the things that excites me about going paperless next school year is the realization that I don't need a textbook so much as I need to find primary sources. Textbooks and copyrighted content is so much pablum and pre-analyzed goop. Primary sources is the stuff that awakens souls, as you put it.

    If the kids don't engage with the art, music, and literature of prior ages, but instead with the 20th century critical garbage, their brains turn to mush.

    Expose them to Julius Caesar's explanation of how to build a bridge in two days, or double-circumvallate your enemy's stronghold, though... they get that. In spades.

  6. Wooaaaaah....I have been paperless not for bout 2 years with the help of LMS like Blackboard. I really thought I was going crazy with the urges to do things my way when it comes to technology and 21st century thinking.
    I just discovered this website minutes ago....I thought I was alone...going mad...alone
    But lookie here, nerdie techie obscenely innovative teachers...all over this blog...could this be?

  7. I mean...I have been paperless in my classroom for about 2 years...

  8. This post should be required reading for teachers, techie or not.

  9. It is hard to imagine a paperless classroom however you make for an inspiring case and it certainly will be happening more often in the future.


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