If you were to ask 1000 teachers what they thought the purpose of education is, you would undoubtedly get a lot of different answers. The reality is that there is not one singular purpose to education. Instead, there are many, and the purpose I want to focus on with my technology projects is to give students opportunities to find their passions in order to become productive members of society.
If you really think about it, isn’t this what all teachers want?
If I am a math teacher, don’t I want to inspire my students in such a way that there will be a few students that find out that math is the subject they are truly passionate about? Students that had no idea that they could be a math whiz, but now with my help they have found a spark that will hopefully last a lifetime. This is how great teachers make great scientists, writers, poets, etc.
We want to give our students tastes of different subjects and materials and hope that they find the one that “fits” them. A concept that Ken Robinson compares to dormant seeds in Death Valley that are, “simply waiting for the conditions of growth.” The Element (Penguin Group 2009). Conditions that we as teachers have control of. We need to awaken our students with a big watering can of potential.
After a few years of running my new and challenging tech curriculum and tech-clubs I had a student named Austin who signed up to be in my newly formed morning news podcasting club, and as standard procedure I asked why he wanted to be part of the morning news team on the application. His answer was that he wanted to get over his “shyness problem.”
As things developed with the morning news podcast, this shy 5th grade student ended up expanding my mind as to what I thought young students were capable of- just like Dr. Tyson promised me they would. In fact, he inspired me to write this book.
Austin had been trained on how to use our little elementary school’s news podcasting studio and was really getting the hang of being a newscaster. His shyness seemed to be disappearing with every chance he got to be behind the mic.
Then one Wednesday it happened. It was a cold December morning in 2009 and Austin had turned up at his usual time to do the morning news. His 4th grade sound tech had cued up all the sound effects, checked the mics and was now ready for the show to start at precisely 8:05 AM. Meanwhile, Austin had prepared the normal script, complete with the lunch recess weather forecast, the hot lunch menu, birthdays, etc.
At 8:05 AM the sound tech counted down, 5... 4... and then silently turned up the mics as her finger signaled for him to start.
What came out of this 5th graders mouth was amazing. He was off script and totally ad-libbing his show- sure, he was still covering the news, birthdays, etc., but he was doing it his way. As I watched his sound tech scramble to keep up, a smile grew across my face as I realized he got it; he had found something that he was really good at, and he knew it.
The show ended, he hung up his headphones and walked out of the studio to be the new shining star of our elementary school. All I could do was smile as he walked off to his first-period class.
Austin was a seed who found the right conditions to grow and flourish.
It was then when I found out that the most rewarding part of teaching is when you see a child find a passion for something that they never knew they had. This is what great tech projects can do for our students. That is why I designed my tech badges program for my elementary school.
Brad Flickinger is the Technology Resource Facilitator for The Metropolitan School of Panama in Panama City, Panama.