I have been in education for 12 years. In those 12 years my teaching methods have changed dramatically. I became a teacher because I wanted to make a difference in education. I admit that I was a struggling student. I did not learn well by lecture and simply reading textbooks/answer questions. I learned best by doing, collaborating, and creating. However, new to teaching, I did not truly realize the amount of work went into everything a teacher did. I ended up teaching using the method I was most familiar with, a traditional environment, because that was easier. It was teacher-directed and memory focused. I was teaching to the state and district tests. I was heavily influenced by pacing guides set to us from the district. Students learned what I wanted them learn and how. That year I was miserable teaching, my students showed no interest in the learning, were continually off task, and causing trouble in class. I finally opened my eyes and said it was time to change my approach. This was not how I wanted to teach. How I was teaching was not what I believed to be the best approach for my students. But, I did not have a good foundation to change my teaching methods.
Before my 3rd year teaching, I took a college course in Differentiated Instruction, based on Gardner’s theory. I wanted to learn more about the different ways people learn, remember information, and use the information. Each year I would first start with a test I found online in order for me to get an idea of my “who” in the classroom. Students took this multiple intelligence test to show me how they learned best. I then asked them to analyze the results for their first writing assignment. Their topic was, “Do you Agree or Disagree” with the results from the Multiple Intelligence test. Their response was normally, “it depends.” It depends on what they are learning, what they already know about the content and the task assigned to them. Well, this made me think more. I could differentiate the instruction and content for my students, start to allow some choices in their product and I used this teaching approach for quite a few years. I would pre-assess the groups to determine what they already knew about the content and I built upon previous knowledge.But, I was still not seeing the results I felt the students should be producing using this approach. There was more joy in their learning process, but it was not purposeful or authentic to the students. During this time frame I was also using more and more technology in the classroom, as I became 1:1. However, it was used in a traditional sense, or as the book says processing tools. (Jonassen & Land, 2012). I asked for my students to type up a final copy of a paper or go to particular websites to practice math facts or reading skills. I believe there is a place and time for those types of websites and activities, and one could say I was “differentiating”. However, it was not authentic, creative, or relevant to the students. My beliefs of teaching were beginning to change again.
I was now looking for ways to transform my teaching with technology and create a student centered, performance based learning environment. Students were actively and collaboratively engaged in their learning. Creativity and innovative thinking to develop original solutions was essential. I was on the verge of making a more global experience for my students before I changed roles at the school. I began researching TPCK, where I was digging into the pedagogical approach to the content, my learners and then technology. I began brainstorming the hard to teach/learn topics to determine how technology can create deeper experiences for my students. I saw more enjoyment in learning, motivation and drive to keep the inquiry during a project, and end products that were not thought of before. I could still differentiate the content, approach and products for my students, but it was frequently done with my students as the planning occurred.
Jonassen, D. Land, S. (2012). Theoretical foundations of learning environments. New York, NY: Routledge.