Leveraging the Power of Web Tools for Productivity in Education

Leveraging the Power of Web Tools for Productivity in Education

The following blog will reflect on how the nature of work is changing due to the web in education and list the implications that the web poses on the leadership in higher education. 

Today, the nature of work has changed the structure, framework, and processes of how we do business around the world due to the web, particularly in education.  Learning has shifted from a teacher-centered format to a student-centered format and the web has helped to foster this shift. With the use of collaborative web tools such as GoToMeeting, Skype, Trello, and Basecamp students are able to collaborate by sharing ideas, innovations, and critical thoughts through an asynchronous or synchronous platform.  Prior to the web students would demonstrate an understanding of a topic by articulating the knowledge learned through hand-written documents, verbal communication, and pencil and paper tests.  Now demonstrated learning can be assessed by a multitude of web and technology based tools.  This has enhanced the students learning, increased efficiency, and promoted innovation and creativity.

More recently, the use of mobile learning has shifted the way teachers and students interact even in the classroom.  Students can now use their iPhones and other smartphone devices during class sessions.  By using the same network students can answer questions that are provided during class and the answers can be evaluated real-time.  A new initiative called Stanford Mobile Inquiry-based Learning Environment (SMILE) “turns a traditional classroom into a highly interactive learning environment by engaging students in critical reasoning and problem solving while enabling them to generate, share, and evaluate multimedia-rich inquiries” (Stanford, 2012).

The emergence and development of the web has changed the way educational institutions administer and facilitate instruction to students.  One of the overarching goals for most educational institutions is to expand student knowledge to prepare them for a challenging profession.  In order to do so, these institutions must learn how to adapt to the continual changes in technology, but more importantly leaders of educational institutions must know the tools’ purpose in order to match the learning objectives to the appropriate technology.  Because of this, leaders of educational institutions are faced with the daunting task of continuously updating materials and course curriculum to meet the needs of technological advancements.  The implication that educational administration faces is that technology changes faster than the time it takes to continuously change the material while giving students enough time to retain what is currently being taught. 

Stanford University (2012). Office of Innovation &Technology. SMILE: Stanford Mobile Inquiry-Based Learning Environment. Retrieved: http://gse-it.stanford.edu/research/project/smile

 

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11 comments
  1. I agree with you that awareness of the tools capabilities and where it is most applicable will push the use of technology in education to a new frontier. How do you think this will affect the education gap that exists in this country? There are the education gaps at the top, bottom, and issues with ambitions that Friedman mentions that technology can address both positively and negatively. What steps do you think we can take to rid some of the negative aspects such as; access in the bottom gap, the low reception and retention in STEM in the top gap, and the seemingly necessity for everything to be fun in the ambition gap.

    • There is a wide range of education gaps that exist in this country and schools, mainly in k-12, struggle with the fast pace of technology advancements. According to a study done by the National Association of School Boards of Education (NASBE), they recommend three methods to help alleviate situations that pertain to education gaps that include: “identifying the needs of today’s students; providing educators with the necessary training and resources to teach in a 21st Century learning environment; and building an educational technology infrastructure” (As cited in NEATODAY, 2012). I’ve volunteered in a few schools of in the central Florida area and have found that some schools do vary in technology. It appears that because there is much concern and research in this area that the findings will promote some promising initiatives.

      NEATODAY (2012). How can Schools Close the Technology Gap?. Retrieved: http://neatoday.org/2013/01/11/how-can-schools-close-the-technology-gap/

  2. Peter Kramer said:

    Similar to @solace2014, I share a concern that a digital classroom evolves into a haves/have not culture in which the students who have horizontal access make the most of it, while students who do not are left behind. Can the classroom of the future (or of 2013) be fully configured for a flat world if the citizens of the same classroom have widely different access to the technology, the bandwidth, and even the ability to use the tools? I’m concerned that we are jumping the gun and presuming that technology is the answer to educational reform when the real reform may have little to do with technology and everything to do with replacement of the industrial platform teaching mode with a new model, however much it might incorporate technology.

    • Hello Peter, you raise some very valid points. You are correct when you say that some students are left behind. I’ve done some research in the past year on the educational system in the Dominican Republic. There are some areas in the DR that do not even have a formal educational system or any processes for a proper learning environment. They rely on volunteers to visit and help them learn to teach their students. Lesson planning and curriculum development is a very common practice in the United States; however in other parts of the world, this does not exist. My initial thoughts to this was to develop learning curriculum that can be saved on CDs and sent to these classrooms so the students are able to somewhat learn and keep up with the rest of the world; however, this poses many challenges. For one, there is limited internet access. My second thought is to develop curriculum to train the teachers to be sustainable in an educational environment. This can be done by building process for administration purposes so the educators can become less reliable on volunteerism. Either way, these students are left behind and although I’m only somewhat familiar with this area of the world, I’m sure it exists in many other areas.

  3. I especially like your comment of education shifting from a teacher centric model to a student centric model and wish to add to the two comments about gaps and the industrial platform. A separate comment that has stuck with me over my technology career is one of “never let technology automate an inefficient process because an organization just ends up doing bad things faster.” Technology is a tool and when applied to existing situations it can exacerbate the issues. Gaps could widen and it could ensure that the same obsolete industrial platform teaching mode is just done more efficiently. Conversely, it can be a strong catalyst by creating a new reasons for change and new visions, if the technology and the opportunity are harnessed correctly. I would offer that technology alone is not the entire answer.

    • Hello Anthony, thank you for your insights regarding technology in the classroom. It is true that in many organizational settings technology can become problematic. However, there are some circumstances in which technology within an organization is a requirement. For example, a educational institutional that provides a degree program in Mobile Development. As I’ve stated in other discussions, a main goal of education is to provide a meaningful learning opportunity so that students are prepared for their profession. Here, educators must provide recent curriculum so that these students can apply what is learned to the real world. Mobile development is a fast changing technology and curriculum must be updated ongoing. Educators are faced with the dilemma of staying “in the classroom” themselves and working diligently on changing this curriculum even more than any other type of degree program. Students must learn the changes in programs such as PHP, XHTML, and development kits that run on mobile platforms like iOS for the iPhone and Android. These changes take place if not monthly but weekly. Evaluation systems that are created within have been implemented to monitor and maintain the effectiveness of these changes within curriculum; however, educator’s still struggle to keep up with the fast-paced environment.

  4. bwatwood said:

    Good points, Matt and @solace2014. As someone who works in educational technology and teaches classes for teachers, it is a constant battle to focus on teaching and not tools. The tools come and go…and new affordances are emerging almost daily. I was working with a dozen faculty this week, and reminded them that most of the tools that excited them did not exist 8 years ago. I do not think we are jumping the gun so much as attempting to understand implications…and the same is true in the world of work.

  5. bwatwood said:

    …and Kelly, thanks for sharing SMILE – I had not seen this particular assessment tool. Very neat. At the college level, we have been exploring Piazza – which allows students to post questions and answer each others questions or up the ranking to allow questions from lots of people to rise to the top. Instructors can answer questions or simply endorse questions as “good questions” and encourage student problem solving around it.

    https://piazza.com/

    • Thank you for sharing the piazza link. I hadn’t heard of this web tool before, but I plan on signing up for a free account and exploring it to see how it would fit in to our curriculum.

  6. Kellyp007,

    As a fellow educator, I find a number of your comments pertinent to my job situation. I especially agree with you about the integration of technology in the classroom. Students are more connected than ever and can access information quicker than we can. However, I think where we need to improve is in teaching students how to process and organize this information they have access to. They also need to work on their formal written communication. So many students today have grown accustomed to slang and abbreviation instead of proper and formal business language/etiquette. Many of them will learn the hard way if not taught the proper way early on. I think in addition to the incorporation of technology, this should be one of our main focuses so that students can hit the ground running in the work force.

  7. Hello Jared, thank you for your response post. The integration of technology in the classroom as certainly changed in the past ten years and it has forced many of us to think in new directions. Your point about the use of slang and how it has affected how students communicate in formal interactions is an issue. I have found that with the use of online web tools such as turnitin (www.turnitin.com), students are able to check their work prior to submitting formal papers. As a former instructor, I required my students to submit their papers to turnitin and the program will check grammar and APA formatting.

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