Education Has Changed (Have We?)

CUE,  a nonprofit educational organization, hosts an amazing conference each year focusing on the newest and best educational technology.  CUE just celebrated its 40th year and many teachers from the Hart District descended on Palm Springs last month to celebrate. We attended various workshops and listening to keynote speakers.  In fact, Hart High’s very own Chelsey Storaker and Dave Crawford were in attendance! Dave is a super CUE fan and regularly attends the conference. After attending this year for my first time, I know why!  The world of education is ever evolving and CUE gives educators a front-row seat to the newest, most innovative technology for the classroom.

As I sat in workshops immersed in lessons, watching videos, and experiencing what it is like to be a 21st-century student, I realized that education has changed significantly.  From the way content is delivered to the way students demonstrate knowledge, the schoolhouse has been revamped and revitalized. Change is happening all around us and it is happening fast.  Are we keeping up? Learning about what is happening in classrooms around the nation shifted my perspective about what teaching and learning look like on a daily basis. Sometimes we don’t realize there are other possibilities until we see things done in a brand new way. Imagine teachers and students actively engaged in the very design of the learning experience. Imagine students publishing work for audiences beyond the teacher, tackling real-world issues using knowledge from various content areas, using technology not only to enhance learning but to make a difference in our world.  These are the possibilities that lie ahead. I want to make sure that my students are prepared for college, the workforce, and the world. Teaching like I did ten, five, or even two years ago is not enough. But how do we begin to change? How do we teach in a way in which we were never taught? The first step is to see beyond what we know and seek out new perspectives. To help get us started, I have compiled my top 5 epiphanies about changes happening in education.


Classroom Design

The very design of a classroom can communicate what you value and how you teach. Are you student-centered or teacher-centered? Do you value lecture or inquiry? Classrooms today are configured to encourage collaboration and conversation.  Don’t fret about furniture because there is no need to invest in pricey student work areas. You can use the standard desks you already have and still spruce up your space by creating groups, different stations, and flexible seating. Read more about updating your classroom design here.



Embracing Tech

Teachers once frowned on the use of technology in the hands of students.  Technology was seen as a distraction and a potential means of cheating. Technology, however, is not going anywhere.  So instead of fighting it, educators are embracing it. The key? Technology needs to be in the hands of students. A teacher may use technology to create, but what are students doing with technology?  How are they using tech to demonstrate understanding, create new products, and send their voices into the world? How can technology be a complementary tool for your content? What can they do with the knowledge and the technical skills they have? Read “Technology, jobs, and the future of work” to find out more about how automation and digitization are changing the workforce.  


Using Tech Responsibly

Responsible use of social media and technology was discussed in almost every CUE session I attended.  What is our responsibility as educators to teach digital responsibility? If we are asking students to use tech tools, we are ultimately responsible for teaching them how to do so effectively.  We are responsible for guiding them to use technology not only to their advantage when it comes to the learning process, but also how to use it to create and to make a difference. Digital citizenship is defined as “the norms of appropriate, responsible technology use” according to, an organization designed to help students and teachers use technology responsibly.  Check out their site to see the Nine Themes of Digital Citizenship and for more resources.  Common Sense Media is another great resource for parents and teachers.  Our librarian, Cheryl Driggs, has also compiled one-day digital citizenship lessons that she can conduct in classrooms or in the library. Contact her to learn more. The topics include:

  • “What Is Your Code” (of ethics)
  • “Who Are You Online”
  • “Overexposed: Sexting and Relationships”
  • “Risky Online Relationships”
  •  “Oops! I Broadcast It on The Internet”
  •  “Turn Down the Dial on Cyberbullying”
  •  “College Bound”


21st-century learning

Students are being asked to collaborate to discover and produce in the workforce.  Teachers should ask students to do the same in an educational setting. Working in isolation with little opportunity for communication or discussion will not help our students prepare for life after high school.  What is Project-based Learning (PBL)? Project Based Learning is a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an authentic, engaging and complex question, problem, or challenge.  PBL isn’t new, but it is what the most innovative school focus on today.  One of my favorite educational blogs Jennifer Gonzalez’s Cult of Pedagogy.  In her post, “Project-based learning: start here,” Gonzales offers information, research, examples, resources, books, lessons, and even video—everything you need to get started with PBL.  Check out High Tech High’s Student Project Page for even more examples or read my post about Sunny Lee.  She was using PBL in a math classroom before it was trendy! 


Professional Learning in Your Hands

This section is the longest because it is undoubtedly the most important. We’ve talked about how teaching and learning have evolved with the onset of ever-changing technology and new demands in the workforce.  But how do we begin to make the change as educators? The teacher has been proven to be the single most important factor in any classroom. The teacher makes the most impact on learning. We may be amazing teachers when it comes to 20th-century teaching (and 18th and 19th!), but how can we grow, advance, and transform to make sure we remain effective teachers in the 21st century?  We want our students to remain curious about the world around them. We ask them to be lifelong learners. Do we hold ourselves to the same standards? Are we looking for ways to improve our craft, reading about the latest pedagogical trends, connecting with the interests of our students, and engaging in conversations about our practice?  The future of professional learning is personalized and will help us to evolve and continually learn.  Professional learning deserves the same approach we offer to our students—differentiation, choice, and flexibility.

The vision for personalized learning is one where teachers are collaborators in the PD process, setting their own goals and determining their own needs for the school year. They work with instructional coaches and colleagues to seek out experiences that will energize their teaching practice. No longer will they complain about having to learn what “the District dictates.”   Teachers will not sit and get information only to go back to their rooms, shut the doors, and continue teaching exactly the same way they always have.  Instead, they will engage with webinars, participate in Twitter chats, read books and articles, attend workshops and conferences, observe colleagues, and (my favorite of all!) work with an instructional coach (and, lucky for you all, I know a REALLY good one!).  

So begin to think about an area in which you would like to focus next year.  Perhaps you want to try flexible seating and build in project-based learning so that you can help encourage more talk time with ELs and all students?  Perhaps you want to focus on how students can use technology to make gains in learning. Perhaps you want to focus on ways students can demonstrate their knowledge in innovative ways so you can ditch those scantrons.  To get you started, check out this AWESOME resource. This website puts all Twitter chats in one place.  You can quickly join one that is about to begin or search others by topic! I wrote about the value of Twitter chats in this post earlier this year.  See what educators in your content area are talking about and what they are doing with their students!

Want to further discuss any of these further?  Call me, email me, or drop by!




  1. I’m definitely interested in redesigning my classroom to be more of a center for learning, and I think getting rid of my giant teacher desk could be a good starting spot. It mostly just collects piles of stuff anyway!


  2. Agree! I feel myself gravitate to my desk because it has the most “stuff” on it and seems to need the most attention as a result. If I could get rid of it and make the classroom places with different learning spaces, I coul rotate through those instead! I was reading that the idea of a “classroom” may one day be completely different as schools reimagine learning spaces, project spaces, quiet/study spaces, community spaces, etc. that are free-slowing and allow for more collaboration among teachers and students.


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