Going through a summer swoon? Turn to technology for a tune-up!

As is the case with most teachers, I have not given much thought to the upcoming school year. Okay, well perhaps a little thought – but not much! Teachers rarely have the time to decompress during the year, and despite what people think, we deserve every bit of summer break that we get. I have tried to make the most of this year’s vacation and began it on a great note with a trip to London in late-June. Of course, I found myself in Shakespeare heaven, with visits to Stratford-upon-Avon and the Globe Theatre. I also was amazed by Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey – what a sight! However, my three friends and I found plenty of time to sample delicious cuisine, imbibe some tasty drinks, and watch Wimbledon (live and in person!) and the World Cup. Far from being an edu-vacational trip, London afforded me the chance to get away and to enjoy life post-teaching.

That said, I would be foolish if I said that I have ignored education completely during the summer. As an English teacher, I always am thinking about what I can do to make the subsequent year a more successful one than the previous one was. I don’t want to inundate myself with new material over the summer, so what’s the solution? Technology. Most teachers use technology to some extent in order to improve their lessons or to perform intense research for a given topic. While that works fine, how many of you use Twitter to catch up on educational ongoings? What about Zite or Flipboard to read articles about teaching and learning? Those apps (and many more) allow anyone with a computer, phone, or tablet to keep up with any topic, any time, any place. I have two Twitter accounts: one for my life outside of teaching, and one solely devoted to teaching and education. Having such an account really has come in handy; for example, because I follow Trevor Packer (the College Board AP supervisor), I was able to learn about the release of AP scores for my class. Zite – an app that allows uses to subscribe to various news sources – delivers fresh education news to me several times a day in an easy-to-read format. (Flipboard does the same.) Basically, teachers can stay engaged when it comes to education without being overwhelmed by technology.

Technology has become an increasingly vital part of teaching and learning over the past few years. Many schools (including mine) allow students to use laptops or tablets in the classroom, and teachers constantly deploy social media and other student-friendly technology pieces to make the lessons more engaging. While most of us need a tech break over the summer, we at least should turn to it to keep our saws sharpened – if for no other reason than to lessen the “shock” of returning to the classroom!

Having said that, don’t forget to give yourself time to enjoy the summer. Like I said before, we’ve earned it!

The two photos below: a Nutella milkshake, and a crispy bacon and spinach pancake crepe. I enjoyed both at My Old Dutch Pancake House (the Kensington location) in London. Delicious!

20140723-153706-56226233.jpg

20140723-153706-56226430.jpg

Yesterday’s education in tomorrow’s world…today!

Hello, and welcome to my new blog! I have had a few “false starts” with blogs in the last few years, but I blame that on my desire to cover topics that, although significant, seemed too out of control to explore. This blog, however, really draws from my experiences in education and thus should be much easier – and more fun – to manage. So on we go!

Having taught English for ten years in private schools (at both the high school and college levels), I have seen the educational system in our country experience a seismic shift with respect to how schools operate, how teachers instruct, and how students learn. The name of the game today is: tomorrow. More and more, education is looking to future ideas and technologies that can be implemented in today's school setting. That said, the American educational system seems at a crossroads right now, pitting “old school” (no pun intended) educators with “new school” thinking. Many schools confuse “traditional” with “antiquated” and refuse to change their methodologies and operational procedures. Often, the schools that resist change are the ones with poorly prepared students and disgruntled faculties and staffs; those that at least consider modernization account for more positive environments. Gone also are the days when teachers and professors can stand in the front of the class like a “sage on the stage” and lecture endlessly while flipping transparencies in a dark classroom. Sure, some instructors still teach that way, but often with fruitless results. Today's teacher successfully incorporates some modicum of technology or interactivity into the daily lessons, often for the students' benefit.

In addition to teaching, I also have studied the “nuts and bolts” of educational administration and operations. How and why do schools and colleges operate the way they do? What are they doing to plan for the future? More importantly, DO they have plans for the future? The aforementioned questions (and many more) became part of my studies and, ultimately, my interests as an educator. I still am exploring answers to those questions – that's assuming I even will find answers in the first place!

What, then, is the goal of this blog? To put it simply, I want to create a means to discuss what I call the “21st century school zone” and its many components: administration, teaching and learning, technology, student performance, and much more. Now, you might say to yourself, “But Matt, the 21st century isn't the future – it's now.” You would be right if you were talking about anything BUT education; unfortunately, in many ways, today's education remains stuck in yesterday's world and appears to be spinning its wheels. My goal is, in a figurative sense, to help push the car out of the mud and to get it back on the highway. To that extent, my posts will consist of reporting on (with appropriate discussion and commentary) on educational news; review of instructional technologies and/or products; reflection on new educational trends and research; and commenting on my “life experiences” that seem relevant to the discussion at hand. And that's just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

I know I won't change the educational universe by maintaining this blog – that's impossible! However, if I can even get people thinking more about the direction of education, I have accomplished my mission. Join me, won't you?