Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Starting a conversation: K-12 vs College tech uses

Here are a couple of things I remember. I remember becoming acquainted with computers at a very early age. I remember being awe-struck once visiting my dad at his school district office as we saw the enormous computer and how the different terminals could communicate with each other. A person could sit at one, type a message, and another person would receive it at their terminal.  I remember having green-screen Apple computers at the elementary school I attended for second through sixth grades. I don't really remember what we learned during computers.

I graduated from high school 20 years ago. I had started testing out of computer classes in eighth grade. I remember fondly spending some time in middle school playing with Oregon Trail. At home, we had educational games such as Where in the World is Carmen San Diego. My dad had written a math game and my mom had done the music for it. I had been exposed to computers a great deal.

When I went away for my freshman year of college, my uncle drove down to give a computer to me. It was a hand-me-down that I appreciated greatly.It was in college that I got my first email address. The university issued email addresses and we were able to connect with our professors by email. It was exciting. The following year, I returned home and attended school close to home. This time we had something super amazing: Infonet. It was a chat feature that allowed us to connect with fellow students. In fact, a few of us became friends through Infonet and eventually had a group that gathered on weekends for different activities, coffee or pool usually. I completed my BA in 2002 and still used technology minimally. I remember being very excited about the way we could connect with a classroom at another campus, but beyond that I don't think there was much tech use. Yet, as I continued my education, I saw technology grow and grow. It's amazing how far we have come in 20 years. I do more in my classes now than my elementary teachers probably could have ever imagined.

It just feels right to be caught up, using, and coaching with the current technologies. I'm getting closer and closer to being cutting edge. I am helping start new trends at my school and working with other educators on implementing new ideas. This is a fantastic time to be in education!

The high school we primarily feed into is going 1:1 iPads for next year and phasing out textbooks. We are implementing the use of and exposure to Chromebooks. My goal at the Technology Instructor then is to bridge it all together and introduce the students to different technologies and enable them to learn more as they move forward through their educational careers.

Here's the thing. Are colleges keeping up? More importantly, are college students using what they have learned as they continue on in their education?

As we all know, there is still quite a divide among elementary, middle, and high school even still. So, imagine what happens when these students descend on the colleges of their choice. These are students well-versed in social media and surely most (probably still not quite all) have some form of technology in hand on a regular basis. At the very least, I am sure most of them have some form of Smart phone. Still, what happens when they walk into their college classroom?

This seems to vary greatly.

A friend of mine teaches classes at a university in California. She incorporates the use of social media. She has also launched podcasts and has a YouTube channel. Her class is a blended format so they only meet face-to-face a portion of the time in the semester.

My aunt teaches at the graduate level. She does blended formats, online courses, as well as face-to-face classes. As she visited recently, we had a very interesting dinner conversation.

Now, interesting dinner conversations are pretty much the norm. My family always ate dinner together, and we still do. As a kid, I sat with a school administrator at one end of the table and public school teacher (and union member) at the other. We talk about all of the interesting topics that often you're not "supposed" to talk about with people. But, we're family. Education issues, technology, and the like are fairly regular topics for us now especially. So, my aunt was visiting and I talked some about some of the different things that I do in my classroom. I love what we are now capable of doing in the way of instruction. I love that we can go beyond expectations. We can raise the bar in our classrooms.

Yet, here was something that threw me off some. What my aunt is seeing is that many college level students are wanting to see PowerPoint presentations and cloze notes or some variation of that combination. I personally struggled to learn in those sorts of class sessions. I need to get into the material. I need to participate in my learning. I proposed that perhaps she will begin seeing a shift in the graduate level classes

A couple of days after this dinner conversation, I saw that someone I once attended a session with was having the opportunity to visit college-level.  Then I saw something more about college-level. And then something more. As I sat down to write this, I saw one more thing.

So, here are my questions:
What happens to our students once they start college?
Is there something that changes between undergrad and graduate level work?
Do they really like it or is it what they know? As in, it's comfortable to them.

We all know magic happens just outside of the comfort zone, so do we need to push the college students farther out of their comfort zone?

What are you seeing and hearing? Please share your thoughts in the comments below or Tweet them out with #collegetechdivide

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