Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Technology as a learning tool

The chapter I read today is very interesting one as the author tries to compare between three generations of learners. The author starts by stating some of the ways that today’s net Geners learn and how the education culture must change to cater for the new learning paradigm. Here are some highlighted points:

1. They learn by doing. I teach at a college where all students have tablets PCs. Sometime when I try to explain how to do certain things on the computer, many of them won’t listen. They immediately start to figure out themselves how to do things. They like to discover things on their own. Give them a book to learn from is a waste of time. Never buy a computer book anymore; students will use the online help to figure out things by trial and errors instead of reading instructions or manuals. Students like hands-on, experimental and interactive activities. Faculty must adjust their teaching styles to accommodate these types of learners in their classrooms or they will lose them.

2. Human Interaction. With all the existing technologies, the net geners still prefer to interact with their teachers and follow students in classrooms. They like to work in groups and help each others. So many times happened in my classes that when student is asking a question, immediately another student will get up and walk toward the person who is asking the question and try to help. Initially, I thought that it could be a cultural phenomenal but after reading this article I agree with the author that it is not. Learning though social interaction and getting feedback from teachers still an important to the Net Generation learners of today.

3. Cut-and-Past culture. Technology is everywhere. At home, at school, and at work. The learners of today have the tools to access information at all time. As research shows, cheating on the rise at universities. The net geners learn to work and help each other as part of the team work skill set they learn in schools, the author states that the current definition of cheating is changing and how students is assessed is changing as well.

What do Net Generation learners want from Technology?

As more technology is used in classrooms, students are going to ask for it to be used and integrated with their learning process in the classroom. Staff must be trained on how to use the new technology and how to integrate it in their lessons. It is very important that universities, colleges and schools support their staff in this integration process otherwise; the use of technology will become a burden on the teachers instead of helping them in teaching and learning process. Technology must always be seen as a learning tool to facilitate learning in the classrooms.


Teaching with Technology


Distance Learning Classrooms Linking Madinat Zayed and Ruwais students

The guiding principle in creating distance learning classrooms (DLC) at Madinat Zayed and Ruwais colleges was to provide a consistent and accessible learning environment to students in various parts of the Western Region. It was also a requirement for DLC to support a variety of established pedagogical needs, as well as to provide a flexible format to encourage experimental approaches to teaching and learning. To this aim, three distance learning classrooms were installed at Madinat Zayed campus and another at Ruwais campus.

In the last month, we were happy to begin conducting classes at the Ruwais Campus. With the same number of teachers that had previously been at one location, Madinat Zayed, it was necessary to immediately begin taking full advantage of the DL classrooms. Distance learning classrooms are being used to teach foundation, Diploma and Higher Diploma students. In some instances students are in both locations with a teacher in one and in other instances students are all in one location with the teacher in the other. Management meetings with staff at both campuses have also taken place, as well as joint professional development sessions for staff at both locations.

To maximize the use of the technology and equipment, it was necessary to provide a variety of options for users while not complicating the system; that is, to enhance ease of use by staff with varying levels of technology experience. The current video conference system (complete with all the necessary display, audio, and presentation system capabilities) utilizes a touch screen control panel as the only input variable required of users. The classrooms appear to have a complex array of equipment, and they do, but all are controlled by one touch-pad device. Aside from the expected desks and chairs, the equipment in DL classrooms include web cameras, track-view mats (from which cameras follow the presenter), as well remote-control devices which allow students to direct cameras to them. Additional equipment includes interactive boards, projectors, and an LCD display panel that offer many possible combinations for interactions to take place on both ends. For example, aside from the live feed, DL classrooms can be used transmit live video, recorded medium, as well as projecting documents (including hard copies of student homework) via a scanner across the distances.

Fully-utilized distance learning classrooms are providing a bridge for students and staff at two campuses across the Western Region. The resources invested in setting up the DL classrooms, is not merely filling the gap of teacher shortage, but creating state-of-the-art opportunities for teaching and learning. The limits are yet to be discovered. For example, the pioneering work with the DLC’s is putting the HCT Western Region colleges into a great position from which to springboard to the next phase of development. Discussion is already underway for the possibility of outreach centers in some of the region’s more remote locations. The HCT already leads the way in providing tertiary level education in the western region, and the utilization of the DLCs will help maintain this position.