Tag Archives: college

Moving Forward With or Without Technology

In our previous discussions, we have talked about technology and its implications on education.  Educational systems, new robotic technologies, and the use of iPads are just some of the vast technological feats that can positively impact education – and such awesome new avenues for advancing education should excite all of us! But unfortunately, the reality is many of these advancements are being neglected, regulated, or are just inaccessible both worldwide and in the United Sates. Across the globe, only CNN reports that only 38% of the population has access to such technologies and many Americans simply don’t have proper resources to keep up with the technological boom.

How does this affect education – from the elementary to collegiate level? 

Regulation of Technology

Credit: http://mbsform6esl.blogspot.com Click for the pros and cons of allowing cell phones in schools!

First off, how is education impacted in school systems where teachers are disallowed from using certain technologies? On a high school level, New York City has banned students from having cell phones on campus because of concerns about distraction; the same schools have limited technology resources (like lap tops) to share throughout the entire building, so teachers are stifled in their abilities to incorporate interactive multimedia aspects to their lesson plans. Similar school, city, and county regulations disallow the use of other technologies that possess educational capabilities, not allowing educators to implement them as they would like.

In addition,a report from The Center for Technology Innovation at Brookings explains that government budget cuts to education systems have had a large impact on limiting the amount of money that can go towards upgrading the technologies used in schools. According to the report’s authors, these budgetary limitations haven’t allowed educators to take advantage of upgraded assessment technology, leaving schools unable to accurately and effectively monitor their students’ performance and leading to a missed opportunity to cut costs on testing. Because of these regulations that do not utilize upgraded technology systems, the outdated scannable scantron has become the pinnacle of assessment technology, potentially causing students to be left behind because of the extremely limited number of ways in which tests can currently be administered.

Inaccessibility of Technology

Like I said earlier, only 38% of the world has access to technology, which leaves 62% “in the dark.” While such a large technological divide has many implications, a large one is that it currently leaves many students without essential learning tools (including access to multiple viewpoints and the latest information!). However, the light is at the end of the tunnel according to a Google Executive who optimistically predicts that by 2020, the entire world will have access to these technologies. Currently, Africa is striving toward that goal, according to BBC – in 2011, Africa was the fastest growing mobile phone market in the world! This increase in cellular technology may provide the ability for these countries, cities, and villages with the resources they need to adequately educate their students, creating a brighter picture for tomorrow. Check out the following video for some insight into how quickly this technology has been growing!

But when considering the inaccessibility of technology and its impact on education, you even have to look overseas. An article posted on Slate.com tells us that 22% of families in the United States don’t have broadband capabilities in their home, meaning that even as advancements in technology keep coming, the ability to access them will remain stagnant. Many students (especially at a primary education level) may struggle to keep up in class if a majority of their work is done online and they don’t have access to broadband at home. To help prevent this gap, teachers should be conscientious of the technological limitations their students may face at home and ensure that ample time and resources can be accessed by the student.

As the digital age continues, what does the future hold? Will the digital divide be eliminated? How can technology become more accessible? Does a lack in technology use mean a lack in the educational experience? Do education and technology go hand-in-hand?

These are questions that as educators, you need to ask yourselves. It seems that many educators strive to bring the newest learning experience to the student. Is that the best learning experience?

The conversation may be two-sided. Dr. Mark Harvey teaches history at North Dakota State University, and although he does occasionally use powerpoint, he strictly enforces a no lap top or cellphone policy in his class and requires all assignments to be turned in as a paper copy. He sees this as more effective and less distracting. Is he just old-fashioned, stubborn, or is he effective?

Credit: Karenjlloyd.com

Educators, how do you incorporate technology? What are current limitations you face, and how do you overcome them?

Comment and let us know!

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The Future of Language Education

Credit: WorldNomads.com

Do you believe that the future of higher education will look completely different 20 years from now? How about 7 years from now? In a blog found on Mashable, experts are predicting that technology will facilitate distance learning outside of the traditional classrooms that we have today. These experts are predicting that students will be able to travel wherever their hearts desire and attend a school halfway around the world! But how can these students be taking classes half way around the world if they don’t speak the language?

Credit: DMUSD.org

That’s where educational technology becomes necessary. Sure, you could learn another language the old-fashioned way in school (flashcards, anyone?), or by listening to a CD on your way to work, or even buying the spendy Rosetta Stone program, but why do that when there are so many options available on the Internet today? Especially options that are completely FREE. Sources you already know how to use like YouTube and iTunes offer free language-learning videos, audios, and podcasts to help individuals learn new languages on their own time at their own pace.

In addition to taking your own initiative in learning new languages, those primary school languages classes that seem to teach you just enough to know random vocab words but not enough to be conversational are about to get a revamp. Current teachers can utilize the same sources we provided above to reconstruct lesson plans to be more involved, as well as utilizing video programs like Skype to create a modern day pen-pal system. Forget writing letters! Skype your friend and actually use the language you’ve been learning.

Credit: Bishophaywood.com

 In addition, an article in the Huffington Post discusses a company called Edtech that has the potential to transform learning from inside of a classroom. Edtech would give each student a much more personalized experience by using broadband-powered “textbooks” capable of streaming video, audio, and even moving graphics. Utilizing this technology, students can be taught languages through an instructor whose second language is English, providing students with more natural, conversational, useful language experience. Experts believe that this new broadband-powered textbook will become incredibly successful because of the amount of engagement it provides, allowing students access to video, music, and games to reinforce their learning.

By learning different languages inside and outside of the classroom, we can increase the diversity in the world. By increasing diversity, we are also increasing the globalization of languages throughout different cultures. The importance of learning different languages becomes more imperative as new Americans keep moving into our country as well as Americans moving out. Learning a new language takes time and commitment, but without a reliable source, can be a very difficult task.

Here are some links to help you get started!

Credit: Cte.umd.edu

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Coding for the Future

“All of today’s kids will need – along with reading, writing, and arithmetic – a basic understanding of computation and the role that it plays across a wide range of disciplines.”

Jan Cuny, Program Officer of the National Science Foundation

There are a lot of things worth learning in the world we live in: how to walk, read, type, write, or drive a car. These last couple years there has been a big push to add a new skill to the “worth learning” list: coding. You may be asking yourself, why would I want to learn how to code? Isn’t that only for computer science nerds? Not anymore.

Code.org is a company on a mission: the concept that anybody can learn how to code. If you’re unfamiliar with what coding is, in basic terms, it’s the language (lines of ‘code’) that makes programs on computers work. Code.org says that everyone should be given the opportunity to learn how to code – because it the future. And coding is making it’s way to becoming cool – take a look at this video starring Mark Zuckerburg and Bill Gates that Code.org has been sharing recently.

Code.org hosts a variety of learning levels – pre-school through college – and gives you the opportunity to find a place near you where you can learn to code with an instructor. Coding seems like like it can be difficult to learn, but Code.org makes it simple. They provide a plethora of online links, apps, and easy-to-use tutorials on their website.

Another great resource to use is CodeCademy.com. This website also provides exercises to learn programs like Python or JavaScript or the basic web fundamentals like html and how to build a website. Last year New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg even joined CodeCademy.com, vowing to learn coding by the end of the year.

In an article on What’s Trending, the co-founder of CodeCademy.com, Zach Sims, simply explains the relevance of coding: “Coding’s important to everyone – it’s the literacy of the 21st century.”

Credit: Mashable.com

So coding is important – but how important is it to students? In the currently dismal U.S. job market, there are about 1.4 million computer jobs but only about 400,000 computer science students. This leaves a great need for professionals with coding and computer skills.

A CNN article titled “Learn to code, get a job” explains that “so few Americans know how to program that firms like Google and Facebook are actually buying whole companies just for their code-literate employees.” America has a shortage of computer coders, not just in people that know how to use in-depth programs, but also people that know html or other basic software.

According to the article, the U.S. currently imports students from China and India through temporary visas to put into computer progamming positions because in those two countries, coding is taught in schools. To solve this problem, both Code.org and CodeCademy.com believe that coding should be part of regular curriculums in the U.S. – from pre-school through high school and even as general requirements in college.

Do you think coding is important today?

After researching this topic, we’ve given it a second thought. Learning to code today is made easy by these online, free programs, so we really don’t have an excuse not to learn this valuable skill.
“One hundred years ago, people were faced with the choice of learning to read or remaining illiterate laborers who would be left behind as have-nots in a rapidly modernizing world.  In the coming century, being able to command a world that will be thoroughly computerized will set apart those who can live successfully in the future from those who will be utterly left behind.“
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Connect and Share with Students

Do you remember when report cards were literal cards given out for students to take home? Can you think back to a time where everything was submitted and graded personally, not electronically? Yeah…it’s been a while. In our world, technology advancements take place every single day. As an educator, it is important to detect trends and utilize these technological advancements in the classroom. College students are constantly gravitating towards not only what is new, but what is convenient. The life of most college students is fast-paced and fluid. Many students balance school, jobs, internships,
organizational leadership, family, and friends.
This leads to a need for convenience in the classroom.

Many colleges and universities have identified this and are providing learning software such as Blackboard or Moodle.  These learning softwares provide a variety of tools for educators to use that allow them to “keep up” with today’s college students. Today’s college students have many needs. In order to more accurately engage and connect with students, it is important to first know them. Getting to know students personally is important. Teddy Roosevelt said, “No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.” Attempt to get to know your students and find out how they learn and where they are learning. To help you, check out this video:

If your department or university has the funding, Blackboard works great. Blackboard provides a system in which everything is in the same place, making it easy for educators to connect and share with students. There are many different tools that educators can use to connect with students, provide collaboration, share class rosters, post grades, and provide information. The key to an effective learning system is application. Take time to get to know your learning software or system to find out how YOU can most effectively connect and share with your students.

Blackboard and Moodle are not the only learning systems on the market. According to the The Chronicle for Higher Education, Pearson and Google have teamed up to provide learning management for educators. Their software is called OpenClass. This software is a FREE alternative to Blackboard or Moodle. It allows for easy e-mailing, calendar, and document-sharing. It’s affiliation with Google makes it easy to use.

Many educators are also using Cloud technologies to share files and documents with students. One of these, according to Powerful Learning Practice, is DropBox. It is an easy way for educators to connect and share with students. Not only that, but is a great way for teachers to be organized and keep everything in one place. DropBox allows you to save a file in a location and access it from any device you use. You can save a powerpoint from your laptop and access it from a school computer or even a smartphone. Using it in the classroom is great too! An educator can share files with anyone they wish, allowing them to access the files or documents any time and anywhere. Students can even submit assignments through DropBox. To understand DropBox even more, check out this video!

Regardless of the platform you are using, it is crucial to keep up with your students. Get to know them an apply technology in a way that effectively connects with them. Get to know the learning system and software you are using. By doing these things, you will create a positive and engaging learning environment for your students!

What systems and softwares are you using? Was this post helpful and beneficial to you?

If you have any helpful tips, let us know in our comments!

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Pinspired

“Pinning” on Pinterest has recently taken internet browsers by storm. Crafty recipes, creative home decor, and nearly any imaginable topic a guy or gal could ever need are featured in this inspiring website. But besides recreationally looking at things like as your favorite baby animals, this trend has expanded from being a solely entertainment feature and into becoming a useful tool for the classroom. Pinterest has quickly become a favorite among educators through its creative ideas and easy accessible “pinboards” to manage a wide variety of categories and interests.

2Pinning is a great way for instructors to do things as simple as organizing seating charts or as technical as categorizing web content. Do you ever find yourself favoriting websites and then forgetting about them? Well, Pinterest helps you keep these ideas/websites organized in easy-to-access pin boards so you can access them when you need to. Pinterest is also great to communicate with other instructors. By simply “following” another pinner, like you would on twitter, you can access things that they have posted as well as sharing it, or by pinning it to your own board so that you have access to it later on.

3Not only does Pinterest have creative organizing tips, but a great bonus for instructors—lesson plans! That’s right. And Pinterest is full of them! Instructors can post their lesson plans to show off any great ideas to share or swap with other instructors. In addition to these convenient and easily-accessible lesson plans are all sorts of ideas for student projects. Pinterest is a great place to get students involved. Just as a classroom Facebook group can be useful, Pinterest can bring interaction to another level through boards, followers, and visually rich content.

As Pinterest continues to become more popular and expand in user base, the usefulness of the website is rapidly expanding as well. Besides recreative and educational pinning, some companies are using Pinterest as a hiring tool. Companies such as Sundog, right here in the Fargo-Moorhead area, are using Pinterest for prospective employees to showcase talents, interests, and qualifications.

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Pinterest is a great way for individuals to express themselves – check out this post on Teach Thought for even more ideas about how Pinterest can be utilized in the classroom.

Would you use Pinterest for educational purposes? How? Let us know!

*All pictures for this blog entry were found on Pinterest! 🙂

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Teacher! Will you be my Facebook friend?

Since so many high school and college students use social media as one of their main forms of communication, should schools too?  More specifically, should teachers use social media to connect with their students?

This topic has always sparked controversy, especially since there are typically not set standards on online teacher-student relationships.

One of the main reasons for not using social media for teachers to communicate with their students is that inappropriate behavior may be encouraged. Nancy Willard, author of “Cyber Savvy: Embracing Digital Safety and Civility,” believes that schools should establish their own online environments and use programs specifically designed for educational purposes. Willard believes that the main problem with websites like Facebook, is that they are set up primarily for socializing. “On Facebook, flirting is encouraged.” Willars said. “You are encouraged to post your relationship status and your relationship interests. That’s not appropriate for a relationship between teachers and students.”

To prevent instances like this from happening, the Huffington Post reports that over 40 primary school districts across the country have now decided to take this situation into their own hands with the approval of social media policies.

Other high schools have reportedly decided against creating a social media policy for the time being, in fear of violating student/teacher rights and because they believe it will soon become outdated anyways. Instead, they advise faculty to use their best judgment. For many, this means not accepting friend requests from students on social media websites.

Other options besides communicating via personal social networking sites include:

  • Using Twitter, only to answer questions the students may have or to facilitate group discussion
  • Using websites like Blackboard, which offers interactive options like discussion boards and instant messaging and can be downloaded as applications on smart phones
  • Using class-specific web pages or blogs, like WordPress (click to check out our course’s blog!)

For those who feel that social media sites like Facebook are necessary in order to communicate with their students, they could always consider the possibility of having two accounts. By having two separate accounts, teachers are able to still keep their personal information from students and remain professional – something important on both the high school and college level.

The Huffington Post reports that David Roush, who teaches media communications and television production at a New York high school, implements this policy and does not accept students as friends on his personal Facebook account, but instead has a separate account that he has created specifically for interacting with his students. He believes that older methods of communication, such as email, are outdated and not as effective as social media sites. By using Facebook, Roush is able to quickly reach his students. In fact, Roush used Facebook to let his students know about a summer internship, and one of his students who viewed the post applied and actually won. “If I would have emailed him, if I had tried calling him, he never would have got it,” Roush said.

Still, the idea of teachers interacting with their students via Facebook and similar social media platforms makes some people uncomfortable, mostly due to the higher level of intimacy involved in the nature of the sites. A report by an Amarillo, Texas ABC Affiliate considers these potential for inappropriate relationships to stem from these social media sites:

What do you think? Do you have any experiences or opinions on teacher-student relationships? We would love to hear your thoughts!

(If you liked this post, you may also be interested in our past posts on how social media affects our education and how social media can be used appropriately inside and outside of the classroom!)

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E-books!

When you think e-books, does your mind automatically jump to purchasing a novel for an Amazon Kindle or a Barnes & Noble Nook? Mine too. But in case you haven’t noticed, there are so many other uses for e-books (electronic books), which include essentially any book available in an electronic format.

In a collegiate setting, e-books also offer a variety of unique opportunities to today’s technology-savvy students. E-books allow for college students to transport multiple textbooks in one portable device, cutting down on the number of heavy textbooks that students are expected to carry and store. The electronic format enables students to highlight or make comments in the book without marks being permanent, and the ability of e-books to be “searched” allows for students to quickly locate desired information. In addition, e-books offer interactive graphics, charts, diagrams, and internet links to students, enabling them to cater to a variety of learning styles. Some e-books also offer quizzes, flashcards, and other study aids that are typically not included with traditional textbooks. While these benefits have not yet caused a sweeping reform of the textbook industry, The Daily Pennsylvanian reports that their popularity is slowly, but steadily, increasing.

Click for full size.

So why haven’t students demanded an influx of e-book options? Critics of the e-book argue though that most e-books aren’t actually cheaper than buying a regular textbook, because there is also the cost of purchasing a Kindle, Nook, iPad, or similar tablet without the ability to sell the book back at the end of the semester. In actuality, it all depends on where you purchase your books. In fact, Amazon has issued a patent to allow users to sell back a “used” e-book, which could help college students save some more money. In another effort to make e-books an affordable alternative to traditional textbooks, a new company, TotalBooX, is allowing e-book users to only pay per page, meaning students wouldn’t have purchase an entire book.

Many people (including students!) are also unaware that if you have an e-reader, you can often borrow books from a library for free. However, libraries are often required to pay a lot of money for e-books and are then restricted on how many times they can lend each e-book out before having to purchase it again. To combat this trend and work towards greater affordability and utilization of e-books, lobbyists and a few publishers are fighting to change the way libraries can lend, working to enable some libraries to purchase e-books at reduced costs with more lends-per-book.

With efforts like this working to make e-books more and more popular, will there be a day when regular books simply become “a thing of the past”? I remember a few years ago, when the last few Harry Potter books were coming out, when fans would eagerly wait in line to be among the first to own such an iconic books. Maybe we are now living in a society were waiting in lines for books won’t be a priority. But with the new technology that has emerged in e-books, there are so many good things that can outweigh the aspect of not having a “real book” in front of you.

What do you think? Are e-books the future? What are some other ways e-textbooks are used?

(Mind not made up? Check out Success ConsciousnessTexas A&M, Gold Leaf, the Free Press, the Epoch Times, and the LA Times for more information!)

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Social Education

It’s 7:30 a.m., your alarm just went off, and before you even think about eating breakfast, you log into your Facebook account. After you login, you notice that you have three new notifications. The first notification is from your professor, letting you know that class is canceled today – a big, sleepy smile spreads across your face. The second and third notifications are to let you know that two of your classmates recently posted in your History 320 group. You ignore the posts from your classmates and scroll down your newsfeed instead. Right away, you notice that your friend updated her status about the tough statistics exam that she has at 9:00 a.m. today. Wait a minute! You are in that statistics class and you completely forgot about that test! All of a sudden that smile is wiped off your face as you scramble out of bed and frantically look for your notes.

Sound Familiar?

If it does, then you probably belong to one of the many schools that now incorporate social media into the educational experience. In fact, an education technology study conducted by OnlineColleges.net found that 100% of universities surveyed utilize a Facebook account, 80% use a Twitter account, and 70% have a Youtube channel.

However, the study also reported that only approximately 53% of students have a smartphone, meaning that not everyone can take advantage of all that social media has to offer. To abolish this problem and even the playing field, Qualcomm’s Wireless Reach Initiative is working to provide those who cannot afford the Internet with smartphones. According to the the program, after smartphones were provided to needy students, standardized test performance increased drastically, with a 30% improvement rate!

The cause of this dramatic increase?

No longer did their learning stop when they left the classroom! By using the internet and social media, students now had the ability to communicate more easily with their peers and could access information whenever, and where ever, they wanted to.

With a greater appreciation of the positive impact that social media can have on education, many social media-esque programs have been designed with that specific purpose in mind (check out last week’s post for some great examples!). One example of a social media tool utilized here at North Dakota State University is Blackboard, a program that allows teachers to maintain grades, post information about class, and incorporate discussion boards into their courses. Now Blackboard even has an app that can be used on most smartphones, making it easier for students to have access to their educational information around the clock. In addition, social sites like RateMyProfessors.com can be utilized by students to communicate with one another about their classroom experiences, aiding in registration and course planning.

Even from our own personal experiences, we have found that social media has been a helpful tool in the advancement of our education. In fact, as a group we even use Facebook to bounce ideas back and forth on to how to increase the success of this blog!

What are your thoughts and experiences on using social media in the classroom?

We’d love to hear your opinion!

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iPads in the Classroom

educational-apps

With new technology integrating into classrooms, it’s beneficial to see how using new media compares to traditional teaching methods. This week, we are looking at the pros and cons of utilizing iPads in the classroom.

Pros:

  • Students have the ability to save documents or notes on Google or other cloud servers, eliminating lost work
  • Teachers or students can record lessons and share them with other students when they miss class – look at ShowMe, an application that makes creating, uploading, sharing, and watching whiteboard lessons as easy as one, two, three!
  • There are tons of apps out there (literally thousands!) that help students to learn – check out Apple’s website for an extensive sampling of the apps currently available. A few we liked the most? iWriteWords, an application that helps preschoolers learn to write, SimpleMind, an easy-to-use note taking application, EasyBib, an application that helps you to cite your sources, and EverNote, an organizational application that helps busy college students to stay organized.
  • Apps like LessonNote also exist to monitor to students’ work in real time to see what they are working on

    Credit: 9to5mac.com

    Credit: 9to5mac.com

  • Applications are providing innovation and creativity in work – it lets teachers and students customize learning to specific situations and courses. Connecting over the internet, teachers are sharing their favorite apps for classroom learning – check out Educator Studio for some of the most trendy educator apps!

Cons:

  • There are too many distractions for students constantly using devices like iPads – social media or games may get in the way of learning. An article on BetaNews outlines some of these concerns about incorporating “shiny new toys” into classrooms of easily distracted children.
  • Less time with actual peers is becoming a problem, and iPads don’t allow students to engage in social learning
  • The cost of iPads are dropping, but are still pricy for an easily breakable item. However, weighed with the potential savings on digital textbooks, many schools are able to justify funding iPads.
  • Many parents don’t know how to use this technology and are unable to help their kids at home
  • Schools need servers capable to hold mutltiple users

With these pros and cons in mind, it’s interesting to see what NDSU is doing to integrate iPads into higher education learning.

NDSU iPadsThe NDSU iPads in Research and Education group has been working over the past two years to utilize new technology in the classrooms to enhance learning for NDSU students. This group also using this technology in research labs, which is of particular importance considering NDSU’s ranking as a top 100 research university by the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education.

To maintain such a high level of prestige, researchers at NDSU must continually adapt and utilize the latest technologies to avoid stagnation. iPads are just one example of how universities are doing this.

According to Dr. Gregory Cook, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry at NDSU, said that “[iPads are] just so much more mobile and versatile” than alternative educational supplements. A strong advocate for maximizing the use of technology in the classroom, Dr. Cook says the easiest way to do this is for professors to share experiences and get ideas from one another.

This is exactly what our blog is about – sharing ideas about how to best utilize the technology available to us to really get the most of our educations.

If you can think of more pros or cons to incorporating these or similar technologies, or more ways to integrate iPad technology in the classroom, make sure to let us know – we’d love to hear from you!

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