It’s no secret that higher education is expensive. It’s also no secret that higher education is important. It’s drilled into the heads of children from the time they enter the public school system that their main goal should be to attend a college or university. But as the economy continues to struggle, many people speculate as to the value of their investment in higher education when they graduate deep into debt and are unable to find a job. They paid a great deal of money in order to make a great deal of money, but for some their investment never returns.
Never in history has knowledge been so accessible. We are never more than thirty seconds away from an abundance of information since new digital technologies have transformed society for young generations. Some can speculate as to the point of spending thousands of dollars to sit in a classroom and learn something they could easily learn from their couch on their phone. Why should they go into debt over this? St. John’s College President Christopher Nelson has the answer to this question in his article on the Washington Post Blog.
The answer is simple: Universities should not be promoting the transfer of information, but rather the maturation of the student attending. That is the true point of attending a university. Anyone can learn anything, but the ability to apply that learning and use it independently is what you take away from your four—or five or six—years in college. This theory comes from St. John’s College President Christopher B. Nelson.
Nelson believes that by removing the economic lens from our outlook on a college education we can see the true ‘value’ of our investment. We can better ourselves and our ability to interpret and gather information through attending college, through working with caring teachers, through participating in extracurricular activities, through applying our knowledge in an internship, through working on long-term projects. College has so many more benefits than monetary ones, and as a society we should start acknowledging them.
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In a recently published paper by the University of Minnesota, researchers looked at how different designs and implementations of distance education courses affected student learning and satisfaction in these courses. The study involved identifying three different types of interaction in these courses: Student-Student, Student-Teacher, and Student Contact.
Student-Student (SS) interaction consists of individual students or groups of students working together in both dynamic technologies such as video conferencing or static technologies such as discussion boards.
Student-Teacher (ST) interaction also uses many of the same technologies involved in SS interaction in distance learning. Face-to-face interaction is also observed under both SS and ST.
Student-Content (SC) interaction is defined as “reading informational texts, using study guides,watching videos, interacting with computer-based multimedia, using simulations, or usingcognitive support software (e.g. statistical software), searching for information, completing assignments, and working on projects”.
When you think of video games what comes to mind? For many, video games are often thought of as purely for entertainment purposes. However, more in depth analysis by researchers such as James Paul Gee into how video games teach players and how educators can adapt these techniques are changing the common perception of video games as only for entertainment. In his book What Video Games have to Teach us about Learning and Literacy, Gee describes how all successful games incorporate specific learning principles regardless of the genre. GMU has published a list of the 36 learning principles along with short descriptions of each of these principles.
By utilizing these learning principles, games can disseminate a large of amount of information in a relatively short period of time to the players. Players then filter out or absorb information based on cues given in the game along with some repetition in order to find the best solution to reaching the objectives of the game. Gee’s book provides much more information and examples of each of these learning principles using games not traditional thought off as “educational” such as shooter or adventure games.
Perhaps the most important point that Gee is stressing in the book is that learning is something that should be interactive and engaging rather than the dull, monotonous task of rote memorization. Video games are good models for this because they encompass many aspects of this. They provide a virtual environment where the player can learn and practice techniques without major consequences (tutorials or beginning levels) as well as repetition in certain instances to help reinforce concepts (losing and restarting a level) that are important to winning the game.
While the idea of using interaction to engage students is not new, the use of video games in teaching and learning is an emerging area that is accumulating a large amount of interest from educators precisely because it works. Instead of viewing video games as a disruptive activity that discourages learning, educators should look at video games as a way to provide the interactive learning experience that many traditional teaching methods cannot offer.
A recent article published by Campus Technology describes how higher ed institutions nationwide are upgrading to provide faculty with the latest technologies to use for teaching and learning. These technologies include hardware such as clickers, tablets, and video recording equipment along with software and web tools such as Google Apps. However, while many of these initiatives to bring the latest technology in to the classroom are ambitious and designed to enhance learning, what can occur instead is that the technology ends up sitting in a storage closet as faculty who are often willing to try new hardware and software are frustrated with not knowing how to use these tools effectively.
The article outlines five strategies to help faculty use technology tools effectively so that they don’t end up gathering dust:
- Create Peer Training Groups – “Instead of equipping classrooms with technology and expecting faculty members to use it, Shackelford said, the university trained a small group of “ambassadors” who help other professors get onboard with the new equipment, software, and applications. Facebook, for example, was introduced not only as a social networking platform for students but also as a communication tool for professors to use with one another and with their students. “
- Carve out time for Professional Development – New technology initiatives can be fast and furious as IT departments collaborate with campus academic divisions, network groups, and other entities to meet deployment deadlines. Faculty members can get swept up in the excitement and wind up with classrooms full of technology that they don’t know how to use.
- Align IT with academic instructional departments – “We can’t do what we want to do on the development side if we don’t have the IT support,” said Spataro, who often bounces ideas off the IT team.
- Create a link between technological innovation and pedagogical effectiveness. If professors know that the time they’re putting into professional development will ultimately help them teach better, then the odds that they will participate and be engaged will be that much higher.
- Finally, involve faculty members in the planning process. Getting professors to integrate smart classroom technologies into their lessons, lectures, assignments, and projects can be as simple as opening up the lines of communication early between those instructors and their IT and instructional technology departments.
Read more at Campus Technology: Tactics for the Smart Classroom: Getting Smarter About Faculty Involvement