Any doubts about the extreme relevance of network technology to the generation of ‘digital natives’ should be put to rest by the recent happenings in the middle east. The ‘facebook revolutions’ which toppled government regimes in Tunisia and Egypt, were driven primarily on internet social networking sites and youtube. The point is that technology (particularly network technology) is integral to any relevance with the present young generation, and nowhere should this be exploited more than in the education enterprise. I am convinced that it is not a matter of if but when one will be unable to do without technology in teaching. a sign of this trend is the availability of entire free courses online through sites like Apple’s Itunes U and MIT’s Open course ware.
There are several practical benefits of technology applications:
It expands the classroom and makes it possible for learning to occur anywhere anytime.
- Discussion of course material can continue on discussion boards where students can have adequate time to process the info and respond more thoughtfully than is possible in class.
- Course management systems such as blackboard make it possible for instructors to post supplemental course materials even in audio or video formats.
It gives instructors more flexibility in the presentation of the course material.
- They can combine text, graphics, animation and multimedia thus appealing to a wider range of learning styles of the students. Many effective teachers believe in the maxim “dont just tell them, show em” therefore with powerpoint slides that have embedded videos (trust me, with some patient work you can find anything you need on youtube)you engage multiple senses of your students.
It can greatly enhance the communication between the instructor and students.
- starting with email and texting (for instructors who dont mind)announcements, clarifications etc are much more effective and timely.
- Student response systems (clickers) helps the instructor receive instant feedback and thus know what portion of the class understands a concept.
Other suggestions based on the level of thinking involved (from Svinicki and McKeachie’s McKeachie’s Teaching Tips)
- Comprehension: watching/listening recorded lectures/podcasts, accessing readings electronically.
- Application: Completing online exercises or completing and submitting problem sets online.
- Analysis: Participating in threaded discussions and providing feedback to peers online or posting responses to course readings in an online journal.
- Synthesis: Researching and writing wikkipedia entries, creating and posting podcasts or blogs on a course topic, or creating course related websites.
But just before you run off to implement every technology, ask the following 6 helpful questions:
- Will it help students access a learning experience they would otherwise not have?
- Will it help overcome some specific learning challenge?
- Will it help address the different learning styles of my students?
- Will it extend the learning experience beyond the classroom?
- Will it help me in assessing the fulfillment of my course’s educational objectives?
- Is it cost effective?
After all we are not trying to oust a dictator, Not a human one at least…. (to be continued)