My dream job until a few months ago was teaching Language Arts, specifically in Middle School. For the past two years, I have been living my dream as a 6th grade English teacher. Then everything changed…
Looking back over the past year, I can see that the change began happening when I started actively using Twitter as a network to connect to other educators. They even had a name for it! I was developing a Professional/Personal Learning Network (PLN). As I connected to teachers and administrators all over the world, watched and participated in #edchat, and read numerous blogs; I began to realize that while technology can have some pitfalls, if used well, it can afford us the ability to do all that we want and need to do as educators. Learning can become more personalized according to a student’s learning needs, styles and passions. While I began making changes in my own classroom, I also became aware of how difficult it was to make changes without the kind of support I had discovered and embraced in my PLN. That is when an opportunity came up that would allow me to help others navigate the use of technology within the curriculum as the PK-5 Technology Integration Leader/Teacher. I have always had trouble letting go of things… relationships, mementos, and dreams. After many conversations and some time of reflection, I began to realize my dream had changed and that it was ok to let go of what I thought I had always wanted. When this dream had first formed, I had no idea technology would be such an integral part of our lives. All of this made me think of a building. Just stay with me…
Occasionally something will pique my curiosity and I find myself obsessing over it for days, looking for any and all information I can find. That is the way it was with the Old Chicago Main Post Office building. My family and I had visited Chicago multiple times while accompanying my husband on business trips, but a few summers ago we decided to take the river tour. It was on that tour that I learned of the massive building featured in this August 1931 article in Popular Mechanics. Among its many features, it boasts 2.7 million square feet, an intricate system of conveyor belts and elevators to process mail, not to mention it has a six-lane expressway passing through it. It has been sitting empty since 1996 with brief interludes of activity while films such as Batman Returns, The Dark Knight series and Transformers series used it to create surreal settings for their movies. That summer it was being put up for auction with a starting bid of $300,000. You can read more of the sad and seemingly never-ending story of this colossal building here and here. The following is a quote from the New York Times Real Estate section in August 2009.
Gradually, however, the building became obsolete as the mail-sorting process was automated. “The column spacing and the ceiling height do not work for automated operations…”
This amazing marvel was so irrelevant that it was practically being given away. Today, after ultimately being purchased and fanciful plans laid out, it sits unchanged. The mail has moved on, but the building still stands. Cars still travel through the building each day, but nothing is happening inside. No one can quite figure out how to make this historic building relevant again.
Sound familiar? Like this building, I believe our education system, in many ways, has become obsolete. Technology has afforded us the ability to break away from the factory model of education. The same factory model that became obsolete in mail processing. We have to let go of some of the things we have always known, while still holding tightly to the things that matter. Change is hard. I get that. As a new PK-5 Technology Integration Leader-Teacher, I am sure I will encounter some who will resist change. As long as we can keep having the conversations, keep learning from each other, and keep in mind what really matters; I am ok with that. I know things can change.
Questions bouncing around in my head…
- What is obsolete in our educational system? What doesn’t work?
- How do we successfully let go of those things?
- Can technology help us make those changes? How?
- Have you used successfully used technology to support curriculum in your classroom? How?
- What do you think is the most difficult thing to let go of as a teacher?
- What are things we need to hold onto as we make changes?
Your feedback is always helpful and appreciated as we learn together!