For many years, my school district hosted an annual Academic Diversity Institute prior to the start of the new school year. At this institute, teachers had the opportunity to hear speakers and attend seminars that taught about and encouraged the implementation of new teaching strategies and methods in the classroom. The theme of the 2012 institute was “Reaching All: Teaching and Learning in the 21st Century.” The keynote speaker at the 2012 institute reinforced many of the concepts and arguments that I had studied in my graduate school cohort program, from which I had graduated just three months earlier. As I listened to the keynote speaker, her words really resonated with me, further confirming my belief that the integration of technology in the 21st century classroom is critical to helping students to be academically successful, both in the present and in the future.

The keynote speaker tugged at my heartstrings through her incorporation of Whitney Houston’s “Greatest Love of All”. It is the song that my dad and I had danced to for our Father/Daughter dance at my wedding a year earlier. Although there is a very personal reason why my dad and I chose this song for our special dance, much of the meaning that he and I both share in connection with this song also carries over into my beliefs as a classroom teacher. My own analysis of Houston’s lyrics further supports my belief about the importance of technology in the classroom.

“I believe the children are our future,” as past and current generations have shown that they will be who shapes the workplace environment once they become the majority of the population. “Teach them well and let them lead the way” in how they will acquire, master, and utilize knowledge. “Show them all the beauty they possess inside” in order to intrinsically motivate them to want to learn. “Give them a sense of pride to make it easier” for them to find their own meaning in the standards that they must master in order to pass a particular course. “Let the children’s laughter remind us how we used to be” when we ourselves were students (Whitney Houston, “Greatest Love of All”).

That last line in particular reminds me of how excited I was to use Ask Jeeves for the first time in my 9th grade Regional World Studies class in order to do research on the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney. At the time, Ask Jeeves was a newly developed research tool on the Internet. My own memory of this experience reinforces the need for teachers to not only continuously learn about and incorporate new learning strategies and methods, but to also serve as a guide on the side of student learning and to let students find meaning in their own learning.

– Kathryn Thayer (Social Studies Teacher)