To connect with today’s tech-savvy students, educators need to speak the same language
Today’s job market is more competitive than ever and the field of education is no exception. The 21st century classroom is just as intense as the boardroom. Educators are on the front lines of ensuring our nation’s economic success —tasked with preparing students to enter a global, technology-connected workforce.
Adding to the pressure, teachers are continually being asked to raise student performance levels, while meeting the diverse needs of their classrooms, keeping up with their own continuing education requirements and leveraging rapidly-evolving technologies to win young hearts and minds.
“Students today are digital natives, and educators need to truly integrate technology as a learning strategy,” says Dr. Meredith Curley, Dean of the College of Education at University of Phoenix. “Book report blogs and historical character Facebook® pages are much more engaging to tech-savvy learners than traditional types of assignments.”
Teacher preparation programs must embrace 21st century learning tools
This means teacher education programs must integrate technology into their own classroom experiences so that graduates emerge with 21st century skills. Ensuring that the U.S. education system is equipping students for workforce preparedness is so vital, the U.S. Department of Education formed the Partnership for 21st Century Skills to seek collaborative solutions from leaders in education, business, community and government.
University of Phoenix takes workforce preparedness and the integration of technology into its curriculum seriously, Curley says. The University will soon implement a new classroom format that utilizes multi-media rich content like videos, podcasts, interactive displays and slideshows. Faculty members differentiate their teaching using multiple instructional strategies and will soon be able to incorporate a larger variety of assignments, which will empower students to create content that is engaging and meaningful to them.
“For example, where traditionally students might’ve prepared a paper, they now may have the choice to develop a podcast, work in a team to create a wiki or create an interactive online display similar to Glogster,” says Dr. Jackie Mangieri, Regional Assistant Dean of the University’s College of Education.
The University will also soon unveil a Technology Resource Library to students and faculty that includes sample lesson plans integrating various types of technology. The library will complement a series of courses recently developed for K-12 educators who teach online. The courses are designed to prepare teachers to create and implement engaging learning activities and assessments in the online environment utilizing Web-based tools and resources, Mangieri says.
“Not only are these courses appropriate for educators in the rapidly growing field of fully online K-12 education,” she says, “but they are also useful for teachers who are looking to have a web-based presence or a hybrid course experience.”
According to a recent study by the U.S. Department of Education, more than 1 million K-12 students took online courses during the 2007-08 school year. In higher education, the numbers are even higher.
With an eye to the future of education, teamwork is also essential
While technology is key to providing students with a 21st century education, learning how to communicate and collaborate is just as important. The University of Phoenix model is based on working together in teams to accomplish assignments, encouraging students to work through the group dynamic challenges that surface in every job. In education, teachers are expected to collaborate with other teachers in their grade level and across disciplines to develop individualized education programs. Educators also often partner with community organizations and parents.
“And in the 21st century, there is a large movement towards developing Personal Learning Networks (PLNs), which allow teachers to learn from, and collaborate with, educators literally from all over the world,” Mangieri says. “University of Phoenix alumni will be well prepared with the skills and tools they need to be effective collaborators and team members.”
To encourage students to start forming networks while in school, the University has created the Phoenix Connect℠ academic social network. The Phoenix Connect℠ academic social network provides opportunities for students to interact with students outside of their field of study who share similar interests, ideas and goals. The network is slated to be accessible to all University of Phoenix colleges by September 2011.
Technology changing the landscape of education
Patricia Wick, College Chair of the University of Phoenix’s Sacramento Campus, says the influence of technology is only beginning to be seen in education. Technology is making education more accessible to students’ individual learning styles and lifestyles, and putting students in control of “what they learn, how they learn, where they learn it and when they learn it,” she says.
“Education continues to move into the ‘data driven’ world and become more of a science. Educators analyze student work and tailor instruction to meet the needs of each student,” she adds. “The educator has the opportunity to help each student reach their highest potential. Our job is to teach our students how to blend the art and science of teaching.”
Facebook is a registered trademark of Facebook Inc.