Two years ago, I anxiously looked forward to the day when I would complete this Masters program. Now that we are in the final week of our final course, it seems to be a sad occasion, as well as a happy one. I have learned so much from the course material, our wonderful instructors, and my fellow classmates that I hate to see it end.
The economy is dramatically affecting public education. School funding in our state is reverting to the 1995 level for the coming year. Even that amount could decrease, as each day brings more bad news. As we continue to do our best to provide a first-class, 21st Century education for our students, financial support is waning. We have all heard the saying, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” I would like to change that slightly to “when the going gets tough, the dedicated get going.” After all, it takes true dedication and commitment to swim continuously against the tide. It is no secret that technology now plays a critical role in our present and future. It is also no secret that the newest technology can be costly. It is our responsibility to prepare our students to be productive, caring citizens of the 21st Century. They need technological skills that our parents never thought possible. More than ever, they need to communicate and collaborate with an increasingly diverse society. Every assignment we have completed through the Walden program has given us the knowledge and skills that we need to make that happen.
Not very long ago, I thought the answer to effective use of technology in the classroom required heavy funding. I suppose it is easier to think that way, since it allows us to blame the lack of progress on the lack of money. Now, I know that there are ways to give my students the access they need on a shoestring budget. Prior to beginning this program, I saw the benefit of using mobile devices in the classroom. Throughout the program, our resources have supported that position. However, I have learned so much more about how I can take full advantage of the mobile technology my students bring into the classroom each day.
More than once, my fellow teachers and I have made casual comments about our students’ fascination with video games: “If we could only put the content material into a video game, they would be more motivated to learn.” Prior to this final course, the “educational” video games I had seen were either drill and practice or merely entertainment. As I completed the application for Week 7, I realized that it is, indeed, possible to educate through video games. The role-playing game in my lesson covers all six math standard areas for middle school students. Given a choice between a digital game and a printed textbook, there is no doubt which one our students would choose. The only ones who will need convincing are other educational professionals and, perhaps, the parents. A major focus throughout this program has been on our ability and responsibility to encourage change in our schools. We must be the pioneers, the leaders, the ones who guide our students and our schools into the 21st Century.
I had taken a few online courses before enrolling at Walden. Most of those experiences were good, but there were also a few challenges. Walden’s instructors are dedicated professionals who are committed to helping us become the best educators and change agents that we can be. It is because of these instructors that I have decided to pursue my Ph.D. through Walden. Whether you call these classes distance, online, or virtual courses, they are rapidly becoming a major part of post-secondary education. Many middle and high schools also offer the opportunity to take courses electronically. This new education frontier holds many benefits and many challenges. I have been able to apply most of what I have learned, immediately, in my middle school classroom. That, alone, makes the Walden experience extremely valuable. I love teaching and I love technology. Walden has given me the opportunity to join the two in providing the best education possible for my students. Until recently, wikis, blogs, podcasts, videocasts, MUVEs, social networks, online communication and collaboration, mobile devices, GPS, and other digital applications were foreign terms in the traditional K-12 school classroom. Today, these technologies are becoming much more commonplace. The Walden program has given me the tools I need to influence and lead the adoption of new and emerging technologies in my school. With this knowledge and continued education, I will be able to better prepare my students for life in the 21st Century.