Kickin’ it Old School



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As teachers, one of our most important roles (like it or not!) is to assess, evaluate and critique the work of our students.  As professionals, we are also asked on an annual basis, if not more frequently, to assess, evaluate and critique our own practice – but many of us complete these informal “self-assessments” after every lesson and, for some, after every interaction with a student or colleague.  Depending upon our position, we may even have administrators and other “higher ups” watch what we do and offer suggestions for improvement.  We are always learning – always improving.  (Or, at least we should be.)

In a recent conversation with my friend and colleague, Ashley Murray, she talked about a change that took place in her mind during one of Alec’s previous classes. She had long been opposed to allowing students the opportunity to rewrites tests or assignments.  After participating in a class discussion, perusing some blog posts, and reading one particularly convincing article, she began to look at rewrites in a totally different light.  Just like that – she opened her mind up to the possibility that there was great value in allowing students to redo poorly done work.  This is what being an educator and a lifelong learner looks like.

For about a decade now, I have described myself as a “traditional teacher”. I have remained “grass roots”.  I’ve been “kickin’ it old school”.  I’ve been wearing that label with some small sense of pride, thinking that it meant that I was an educator who got through the curriculum, kept students working hard, had high expectations for academics and behaviour, and didn’t allow myself to get caught up in all of the “fluff” that would cdodoome and go in the  educational world.  By “fluff”, I’m referring, of course, to the Internet and other fly-by-night technological notions that ruffle the feathers of traditional teachers.  I, like Logan’s mom, did not really anticipate technology becoming an inherent part of life.  I honestly thought that the tweeters of Twitter would become as extinct as the dodo bird.  I thought that Facebook would die like MySpace.  Boy, was I wrong.

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Thanks to this class and to the incredible classmates who share this journey with me, I am starting to think that my “Traditional Teacher” badge is getting a bit tarnished. It is time to get a new badge and to redefine myself as an educator for the modern ages. I want to be one of those teachers who knows and responds to her clientele – a teacher who can acknowledge that the world is a different place today from when I was a teen.  I need to prepare myself for the educational reform that is on the horizon so that I can help prepare children for their future, whatever it may hold.

Do I feel that my current method of teaching is harming the teens in my classes?  No.  They have learned what they were supposed to learn with respect to course objectives and – even more importantly – many very positive relationships have been established.  But, can I do better?  Yes.  I believe that I can change what I’m doing in order to better prepare my students for the world that is waiting for them after graduation – a world that will include Web 3.0.

Jackie Gerstein’s article, “Moving from Education 1.0 Through Education 2.0 Towards Education 3.0”, she describes Education 1.0 as being based in behaviourism; at the foundation of this type of education are the three Rs:  “receiving”, “responding”, and “regurgitating”.  I see myself as being this type of teacher during my first few years.  It allowed me complete control over the students and over the path that we would take to reach the required outcomes.

Gerstein goes on to define Education 2.0 as being more interactive, with the three Cs at its roots:  “communicating”, “contributing”, and “collaborating”.  Despite my description of myself as a traditional teacher, I believe that, more recently, my teaching approach might fit into the parameters of Education 2.0.  However, when Gerstein speaks of the “convergence of resources, tools, open and free information access” and the onset of Education 3.0, I cringe… and here’s why:

1)  Limitless Connections = Limited Control


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In her 2014 article, “No Silver Bullets: Hybrid High Learns a Tough Edtech Lesson”, Mary Jo Madda describes the drastic flaw in the design of a special school for at risk students.  Hybrid High was supposed to be “a space where students could move at their own pace and be engaged in self-discovery activities that would allow them to gain a higher level of understanding”.  Instead of this model allowing technology to empower and engage the students, it “de-emphasized the role of the teachers” … taking away any power or influence that the teacher had.  Hybrid High had to complete redesign its approach in order to ensure that technology would work for the teachers – and not the other way around.  The teachers needed to regain their control.

Reading Madda’s article brought up the same uneasiness in me that I felt in reading George Siemens 2009 article about connectivism.  There, Siemens talks about technology and its importance in Web 2.0.  He describes technology as “an enabler of new opportunities” and acknowledges the ability of the Internet to connect people from all over the world.  With Web 2.0 and, even more, with Web 3.0, there will truly be no end to the tangents that learning could take.

As a teacher who determines her success by the completion of specific learning outcomes and content, how could I possibly control where this incredibly connected learning would take students?  Gerstein anticipates that Education 3.0 will allow for great personalization – for students to explore their own areas of interest.  How would I prevent them from taking off on tangents that interest them and, thereby, not completing the required content in the course?  This leads to my second fear…

2)  Assessment Nightmare


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It is SO easy to assess in an Education 1.0 environment. Education 2.0 … with its collaborative element … makes assessment more of a challenge, but still manageable.  As we get closer to Education 3.0, assessment becomes an elusive thing of the past.

In a recent tweet, international school leader, Brad Latzke, used this cartoon and checklist to describe how many teachers feel about the changes that are on the horizon:

The Cartoon


The Checklist

21C School     √

Tech                 √      

4Cs                    √

PLCs                 √

PBL                   √

Makerspace    √

SBG                   Uh-Oh

I had to look up a few of the “must-have” items on the checklist … I’ll share my findings for those who need them!

21C School = 21st Century School

Tech = Technology

4Cs = Collaboration, Critical Thinking, Communication, and Creativity

PLCs = Professional Learning Communities

PBL = Project-based Learning

Makerspace = A place to collaborate and create (here’s a link to a quick YouTube about this!)

SBG = Standards-based Grading  (here’s an article to describe this grading practice that, though introduced about a decade ago, has still not gained the favour of many educators.)

In other words, despite having all of the characteristics of a 21st century school, many teachers still use out-of-date grading systems.  I am afraid that, even if I were able to adopt more of the Education 2.0 philosophies and – eventually – Education 3.0 practices, I would be stuck assessing students based on Education 1.0’s “regurgitation” approach.  How does one objectively evaluate learning in the very open, undefined space that is Education 3.0?  My final fear of Education 3.0?  Motivation.

3)  Motivation


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In her article, Gerstein describes Education 3.0 as being “characterized by educational opportunities where the learners themselves play a key role as creators of knowledge artifacts…”.  In my decade of teaching, I have never once taught a class in which 100% of the students were self-motivated.  When many students are unwilling to come to class regularly, to participate in or even listen to class discussions, etc., how in the world can we expect them to be creators of their own knowledge?  Sure – they might be more engaged if they had more control in their learning … but I don’t think that this would apply to all of them.

The need for students to be “self-determined” is inherent in Education 3.0.  This might be the greatest challenge for students to overcome as the world of learning changes.  Helping students to become “self-determined” learners might be the greatest challenge faced by teachers.

Taking a step back from Education 3.0 to Web 3.0, in his TedTalk, Philippe Modard describes this new web as “semantic”.  It seems as though, in order to use it effectively and efficiently, users will have to have a deep understanding of the language of web.  Who will teach students this new language?  If students have difficulty grasping Web 3.0, will they be able to function using Web 2.0 in an Education 3.0 classroom?

So, how do I continue on this career path and to keep from being stalled by these fears?  I will defer to the experts … and take baby steps.


Gerstein suggests that many students already have the skills that it takes to be self-determined learners.  A 2009 survey showed that many students have already taken learning “into their own hands”.  Perhaps they are more prepared for Education 3.0 than I believe them to be!

Sir Ken Robinson, in his TedTalk entitled “Bring on the Learning Revolution”, posted by Benita Struik, states that “education, in a way, dislocates many people from their natural talents.”  Wow. Like a stab to the heart for a traditional teacher. So, perhaps my previous comment that my (almost) past teaching style was not hurting anyone was a little bit off-base.  Come to think of it, I did have a student for whom the traditional classroom was especially excruciating.  Expecting him to function in an Education 1.0 – or even Education 2.0 – environment was like forcing a square peg into a round hole.  Andrew and Ashley – you know who I’m talking about!  Trying to teach this young man in a traditional way was not easy.

Robinson quotes Abraham Lincoln’s 1862 speech, saying that, “the dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion.”  In hearing this TedTalk (I truly could have quoted every word, as Robinson is very entertaining and incredibly insightful!), I began to think that trying to be successful in a Web 3.0 / Ed 3.0 environment and failing is, perhaps, better than not trying at all.  I cannot let my fear of the unknown cause me to stagnate with the other traditional teachers of the world.  And, for that student who was a square peg, and for all the other square pegs who go unnoticed, perhaps your time to shine has come.

In this post, I’ve spoken primarily from the perspective of a teacher – in particular – a traditional teacher who will clearly struggle with the introduction of Web 3.0 / Ed 3.0… at least for the first few years.  The same sentiments of lost control, fear of assessment, etc. would be felt by technology-averse students – only to a greater degree.  Students who live in technologically illiterate environments and who don’t have adequate access to the Internet and devices will fall even further behind when their teachers and classmates dive even deeper into the Web – unless they have the right kind of leader to support them.  It is my job to become that leader.

11 thoughts on “Kickin’ it Old School

  1. Kudos to you Nancy! It sounds like you have experienced great growth so far this semester. I’m quite early in my teaching career so I don’t consider myself a “traditional teacher” but I share many of the same concerns regarding teaching in an 2.0/3.0 world while still having to grade within 1.0. If we’re shifting our teaching and learning practices to allow for more collaboration, connectivity, and individualized learning, assessment practices need to mirror this shift. Unfortunately, this feels like more of a structural/societal shift than an individual one and I’m not sure how to begin this process. Hopefully this week’s group presentation on assessment technologies will provide some suggestions.


  2. Nancy, I really enjoyed your post. I had so many ideas come up when reading, I don’t even know where to start.
    “When many students are unwilling to come to class regularly, to participate in or even listen to class discussions, etc., how in the world can we expect them to be creators of their own knowledge?.” – This makes me think of how the “pendulum is always swinging in education” and maybe it’s time to swing back. We went from a society, where my father in law went to school until grade 8 and that was accepted, to a society where in order to work in the service industry, it is expected that everyone has a grade 12. Are we ‘formally’ over educating people? For base level workers, is it necessary to have a grade 12? Could they not receive on the job training? I am honestly asking because I think that some students will be happy and feel successful in life with base level jobs and that we need base level workers. At what cost (financial, emotional health of students) are we continuing to push ‘square students’ in ’round holes’?

    I have been thinking lots about how the teaching degree has evolved. My aunts received their ‘Standard A teaching certificate ‘after completing 2 years of post secondary. Is education somewhat of a business? Did we need four years of post-secondary to teach in our roles? (The RN program has undergone similar transformations to their program.)

    The second thing I was thinking of when reading your post, was how assessment is so ingrained in us as educators. I often wonder if formal assessment is needed at all in primary. If we focus on the learning and growth of the individual rather than assessment, perhaps our students would inherently go further? I know this sounds radical at first, but if I had my way, I would do away with grades and report cards all together in elementary. By the time that I make my students report cards, the information is out of date. I give them better instant feedback in class.

    Lots of thoughts moving forward into Education 3.0 and thinking we need a societal shift! Thanks for your post!


    • Wow, Launel… you’ve brought up some very deep issues surrounding education in general. Thank you for getting me thinking about these! Like your grandfather, my maternal grandmother completed only her grade 6 and then had to stay home to help her mother with her many young siblings. She didn’t ever work outside the home, but, boy, did she work hard! And she was so knowledgeable! She could grow anything, fix anything, cook anything… and she cared for EVERYone. I try to show students the relevance of the content in my courses… but, for some, it’s a struggle! We all have different aptitudes – and different definitions of success / achievement. Sometimes, we (as educators) seem to push the notion of post-secondary education onto students for whom it really wouldn’t be a good fit. As you mentioned, society, as a whole, seems to do this. I remember teaching Career and Work Exploration a number of years ago. There were grade ten students who found only difficulty in the classroom environment, but totally thrived in the right work space. How do we help students to find THEIR path without “typecasting” them at too early an age? Thank you for your excellent ideas and questions!

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  3. I really enjoyed reading your post, well done!
    I really enjoyed your point about assessment and I feel like that is my biggest struggle as I’ve tried to incorporate more technology in my classroom.
    Great points too Launel, I didn’t consider post secondary in my reflection till you mentioned it.
    We certainly do need a societal shift!
    Thanks all!


    • Hi Holly! Thank you for reading my post – and for your comment. I wonder what might bring about this societal shift? Demand from the labour market? Will it be a result of a “pull” from educational institutions like SaskPolytech? Or, will this shift ever happen? What does it mean for teachers who are willing to make the transition into Ed 3.0… but end up having to drag students along with them? So many unknowns. We won’t likely have answers until we’re right in the middle of it all!


  4. Pingback: Web 3.0 – A Perfect Storm? – EC&I 833… Let's do this!

  5. Nancy I really enjoyed your post this week. My absolute favourite thing you mention is “Can I do better?” I think that we as educators are constantly wanting to improve and let’s face it our schooling revolves around being reflective practitioners. I feel in the world of technology I always feel like I’m behind and need to do more and more. I think sometimes it’s more about small steps and adding in simple things that perhaps progress as we become more comfortable.

    I think it’s good to kick it old school now and then and as a newer teacher, I enjoy seeing some of the old school in practice. At the same time I absolutely admire teachers like you who change along with the times.Those who embrace a changing world! Thanks again for sharing.


  6. Great post, Nancy! I love your optimism and the way you can critically reflect on your own teaching to draw lessons from it that are useful for all of us reading your blogs! You brought about so many interested and pertinent ideas in your blog this week that it is difficult to comment on all of them – but I do want to particularly speak to your addressing of assessment. I had NEVER thought of this and, you are right – it will be a complete shift! I have found it difficult to change my assessment style to fit with my new school’s policies and procedures – and this is still an assessment style with which I am familiar! A shift in education as big as Web 3.0 will definitely have more of an impact on my assessment than I had ever even realized. Thanks for sharing – I will now be better prepared for what the future holds! Thanks for sharing!


    • It gives me hope to know that a young teacher shares my struggles with finding assessment methods that (will) fit in the world of Education 2.0 and, eventually, Education 3.0. I’m so happy that you interpreted my stress and uncertainty as optimism 🙂


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