The Cyber Teacher
Becoming a teacher today is means learning to teach with new tools and resources that were unheard of only twenty years ago. There is almost no part of the education experience that is untouched by the computer or the internet. So the more you look to becoming a “cyber teacher”, the more you will be tapping the great power cyberspace has given us to use for education.
A cyber teacher doesn’t mean that you will no longer interact with your students in the class. “”Going cyber” means that you will take advantage of the internet even during the course of a teaching day to tap the incredible information resources that are there to make your lessons so much more rich and meaningful.
It is almost unheard of any more for a classroom to not be equipped with not one but many internet connections and computers as well as all of the popular software to support the use of computers in the classroom. In fact, more and more students are bringing laptops with wireless internet access to use at their desks which means that the computer is now becoming as common a student tool as the pencil or the protractor for your students.
Staying up to date the latest that is available on the internet is critical so you are offering your students the best teaching available in this modern time. Moreover, you have to stay up to date and “plugged in” to what is going on in cyberspace because your students are knowledgeable about what is happening in the internet world. So to stay up with them, you have to stay current too.
Along with in-class research resources, the internet has set up tools for communication that was unheard of before. When you assign group projects, they won’t just communicate by sitting around a table and working out the project. They can interact via internet “groupware” such as wikis or Google groups to share information, pool their resources, and even split up the work to be done which all can be easily merged into their final project report to turn in to you when they are done.
This new age of communication can be used by you as a teacher to open up communications channels with the students at home and with their parents in ways never known before as well. No longer do you have to worry about laboriously writing out the daily assignments for your students to write down and take home. You can now post them to a class online bullion board or email them to the parents and to the student so every day when the child gets home, the excuse that “I lost my homework assignment” just won’t cut it.
To make this work, you also have to make sure the parents are internet savvy. Don’t count on the child to give his or her mom and dad a seminar in cyber education because the speed of cyberspace makes the student’s life more accountable. But you can schedule computer classes with the parents to show them how to find the student’s assignments as well as grades, notes from the teacher, or special announcements right here on the class web page in cyberspace.
We are really just getting started tapping the internet to make communications and education more efficient and powerful. Other ways to use this technology include having the students do their homework online so they cannot say “the dog ate my homework.” And because young people are very internet savvy, by making their education life internet-enabled, they will be better students. And you will be a better teacher because you took the time to learn to tap the power of the internet to become a cyber teacher for your students as well.
The Social Side of School
If you are preparing to become a teacher with the anticipation of leading a group of 20 or more students into the process of academic discovery, it is easy to let most of your concentration be focused on academics and on focusing that class on the school work at hand. You envision yourself in front of a big group of fascinated youngsters who are all about paying attention to what you have to say.
There is a fallacy in this image though and it lies in what will be actually going in the minds of those students you will try to teach each day. The fundamental flaw in this assumption is that when you are looking out at a group of a couple of dozen kids that their minds are only on you because the class is all about you and the topic at hand in your lesson plan. The truth is that the class is all about each other and the social side of any classroom setting can come to totally dominate the classroom time for the kids.
If you do not recognize or don’t know how to diagnose what is going on socially in your classroom, you are working at a distinct disadvantage. Kids are learning a lot at school and not all of it is what you have prepared for them to learn. The social setting in that classroom is teaching them all kinds of lessons that you have no control over. Moreover, some of those lessons may not be wholesome or socially acceptable concepts.
The society of children and teenagers can be amazingly brutal. Kids are far more harsh on each other than adults would ever imagine and the harm that can be done to the heart and soul of someone who gets singled out to be victimized can be lifelong and devastating. So it is to your advantage if you learn to recognize the signs of unhealthy social interaction and jump in and change that group behavior before it goes too far. This will take some keen powers of observation on your part, an ability to spot social exchanges happening even as you teach, and the psychology to know what is going on.
The good news is that as the leadership in the classroom, you can effect change in how the kids influence each other socially. Because you know that social skills are being learned all the time around you as you teach, you also have the opportunity to create activities and opportunities for discussion that can change that social behavior for the better. You can literally teach those kids to get along and to treat each other in a civil fashion and do so without alarming the kids or losing any teaching time that you need to complete your academic goals.
One great way to begin to move the kids toward positive social models is to move from the traditional “teacher talks to big class” approach to teaching to one that uses small group activity, teamwork and competition to not only make learning a lot more fun but to encourage good social development that will help the kids develop socially as well as academically.
You should not feel that by trying to teach the kids good social skills you are abandoning your core principals as an educator. If you can also teach the kids good social skills while you have them in your class, that time could turn out to be the most valuable thing you have to offer your students. And when you see those positive social values begin to change lives in your young students, you will get a unique form of pride because it was you that made it happen.