It has been said that, “the only constant is change itself.” Though difficult at times, we know that change breeds growth, a necessary part of life.
As teaching veteran with a quarter of a century's experience, I can say without hesitation that I have seen technology “change the face of education.” Literally amazed at times, I have watched in awe, as technology transformed the dynamic of my classroom in the most profound way. Through hard work, professional readings, and the leadership of the (parish) technology staff, I have been able to capture a higher level of interest and growth in all of my students. In my opinion, growth should be the “key” element of any classroom, whether it lies with the students or the teacher. Evident in the last years of my classroom were children striving for higher expectations, thus breeding true growth in “all of us”. During the past few years, experiencing the phenomenal effects of technology integration in students and other teachers I have helped, has proven to be a truly liberating and educational journey for me. The odd part is that I am now retired and the effects grow stronger each day instead of diminishing. That is a true testament in how powerful technology integration can be on an educator. The more I see growth in classrooms throughout my district, the more convinced I am of that power. My story begins however with an unusual twist. One that most people would never understand. It starts with my hearing loss and the power that hearing aids brought to my life.
Born with a moderate hearing loss, I have always been at a disadvantage by society’s terms of hearing. Fitted with hearing aids at the age of thirty years old, I made a conscious effort to use my disability as an advantage in my classroom. Without a doubt, I know in my heart, that my hearing impairment has affected “who” I am as a teacher. During the first three decades of my life, I lived with only half of my hearing. Despite the help of my hearing aids during the past thirteen years, struggling with the simple task of hearing every day sounds in the world is and will always be a part of my life. While most can just “listen” and learn, there was never a time in my life in which I could depend solely on my hearing abilities.
As my struggles intensified, I was able to realize the importance of “hands on activities” and the implementation of multi sensory methods to stimulate student learning. Through the assistance of technology based programs, I have been able to successfully enhance lessons by connecting concepts through the use of visual aids. In essence, I feel that just as my “hearing aids” are tools which have helped compensate for my hearing loss, I believe computers are tools which help students meet individual academic needs and challenges. Whether it be with academically strong students or those experiencing learning problems, I have seen technology help all of my children rise to meet personal challenges.
Because of that, as an educator I found myself constantly striving to prepare “productive and effective” technology lesson plans, which incorporated Louisiana state benchmarks. Though problems may have surfaced in my journey, I was been able to see growth in each student academically. Through on going (personal) technology journals, documentation and strategies, I was able to create a guide for future classes. I created electronic portfolios with the work of every student throughout the years. My students each had a “Tech Binder” which held printed technology projects in all major subject areas. Through the evaluation of my technology journal, student binders, and electronic portfolios, I was able envision a more effective path with technology integration for my students.
For me, the most amazing part has been watching my second graders set goals and “challenge themselves” in ways I was something I had never experienced before. Though the weak still struggle, academically I was able to see growth in every student. However, of all the wonderful academic benefits that have emerged, as someone truly dedicated to nurturing the “whole child,” one of the most rewarding aspects, was an increase in higher self esteem in the students. Not threatened by challenging themselves at the computers, even the academically weaker students (who have a tendency to shut down); work to achieve a new level of learning. It is evident that with the computers, everyone wanted to participate, even when it meant challenging themselves. As an educator, I feel that “said it all!”
Yes, it is evident that change offers a journey that may be difficult and stressful to any given situation. So why did I change as an educator? Why did I take a road paved with more work or more stress at a time in my career when I should feel a bit of comfort? In essence, the answers lie in what I learned through my own personal disability. There are students who may need a different style of communicating or learning. Technology unquestionably offers that within the realm of classrooms everywhere. Through more than two decades of my career, the “one constant has been change”. Change that made a difference in my classroom, in my style of teaching and more importantly in the learning style of my students.
My greatest hope is that all educators realize the power of change and how technology in a classroom is essential in leading our students successfully into a digital era. It is true, "the only constant is change itself" and I am glad I had the courage to bring change to my classroom through technology integration to do what I felt was best for my students and not take a more traveled road. Without realizing it, the journey made a difference in my life, but even more so, it made a difference of the students who will be living or surviving in a technological era long after I am gone.