When I started teaching in 2010, the technology in my classroom and school building was extremely limited.
I remember visiting another school during a professional development session and being amazed by their handheld clickers and by a system in the corner where students could feed in a scantron and immediately receive a set of questions printed out just for them.
At my school, I had a desktop computer, which was used to take attendance and enter the lunch count in PowerSchool (we also had to complete the same on paper and send it via a student to the office), and a SmartBoard that had been installed at a height that made the top half untouchable without a step stool.
Halfway through my first year we received a set of laptops which were to be shared between six classes. Since the laptop cart was too heavy to be carried up the steep stairs of our historic school building, usage was confined to a small room on the ground level where folding tables, chairs, and extension cords could be set out as needed. It was a hassle, and the internet connection was slow, so few took advantage of the promised potential of these devices.
During this time I even tried my hand at recording a few of my own instructional videos to help meet the needs of absent students and students who needed a little more time with certain topics. When needed, I set students up with headphones at my computer so they could watch and pause the videos. Students were able to move at their own pace, allowing them to take notes and jot down questions in their marble composition notebooks.
In less than a decade, technology in classrooms has completely transformed. Clickers have been replaced by smartphone apps, and scantron machines have been replaced by EdTech programs that personalize student learning through sophisticated algorithms that don’t rely on scantron-friendly multiple choice questions.
The years spent worrying about internet connectivity in schools has also nearly come to a close. According to Education SuperHighway, a non-profit founded in 2012 with the goal of bringing connectivity to every public school classroom in America, 99% of schools have scalable fiber-optic connections which allow them to not only meet current demand, but scale to future demand with ease. According to Education Superhighway's 2019 report, “the number of students who have access to broadband at the FCC’s original goal of 100kbps per student has increased from 4 million in 2013 to 46.3 million today.”
Much has changed in the classroom this decade. We’ve gone from little to no technology in most school buildings, to conversations about the downsides of screen time. The proliferation of devices and the improvement of connectivity have created both new opportunities and new challenges for students and teachers alike.
While it is hard to imagine what classrooms will look like a decade from now, what is certain is that teachers will continue to play the most important and profound role in the growth and development of the students in their classrooms. No matter how smart technology becomes, no one can ever replace the profound connection between teacher and student.
Thank you for all that you do every day. Happy New Year!