Crossing the Digital Divide – Integrating Technology to Engage 21st Century Learners

I spent today at Xavier University for a workshop sponsored by the Greater Cincinnati Consortium of Colleges and Universities. The event had a great turn-out – I think there was about 100 people at the opening keynote.Opening keynote – “Meet Generation NeXt: Leveraging Technology with Today’s Learners.” Presented by Mark Taylor, this presentation introduced the audience to 21st century students. By comparing generation NeXt with baby boomers, generation X, and one other (name escapes me), the audience had a better idea of how the digital mind works. Mark was a great presenter and he kept the audience engaged with the use of clickers. The material, however, was nothing new to me. He did gauge the audience before each topic to see how many people were familiar with the material – and it did seem like a lot of the content was new to them. Complete with his southern accent and jokes, Mark was a great presenter and I look forward to hearing him again during a breakout later in the day.Break-out Session 1 – “The Best Things in Life are Free…including the Technology.” The presenters, both from Northern Kentucky University, explained their courses and how they use free technologies. Using Blackboard, the presenters use audio recordings that they embedded into their course site.The handout that they provided included a list of tools that they use or tools that are similar to what they use. It’s a great list that I’ve included below:

  • Audacity – audio podcast recorder
  • AudioBoo – audio recorder (online-based)
  • Dipity – Interactive online timelines
  • EyeJot – send video emails
  • Jing – tutorials and image captures
  • PB works – wiki creation
  • Poll Everywhere – online polls that can be answered by cell phone, twitter, or website
  • – Embed YouTube videos without ads or other distractions
  • Study Shack – Create banks or stacks of electronic flash cards that can be used on mobile devices. Stacks can be public or private
  • Today’s Meet – Online discussions or virtual office hours
  • Vocaroo – Voice/podcasts that can be emailed or embedded
  • VoiceThread – Group conversations that allows participants to leave comments via voice, webcam, or text

Items and descriptions were provided by the presenters by way of their handoutBolded items are ones I hadn’t previously heard of.The presentation was pretty good. Many of the tools weren’t new to me, but it was very helpful to hear how the practically applied the tools into their courses. One of the cool things I didn’t know was regarding the premium version of VoiceThread. For $100/year, an instructor can create up to 99 accounts for their students as well as utilize group features. That might be something to check out!The last thing I wanted to mention is that there was a question in this session about how you know that the person taking an online test is the person they say they are. This is always a sore subject with educators, however instructional designers and assessment experts constantly respond the same way. You CAN NOT do multiple choice questions in an online test. It is so easy to cheat and so by forcing students to answer open-ended questions, the cheatability factor is decreased. Oftentimes, presenters don’t know how to answer this question. The presenter in this session did a wonderful job. “There is no perfect answer, but there is no perfect answer in face-to-face classes either.” EXCELLENT.Break-out Session 2 – “Clickers in the College Classroom: Using Audience Response Systems Effectively.” This session was presented/hosted by Mark Taylor. Before Taylor even began with his slides, he took questions from the 8 of us that were in the room. One of the examples that came from the questions was using clickers for peer instruction. Having students weigh in on a questions, then have the students talk to one another and convince them that your answer is correct. Then, survey the students again.Going into the session, Taylor started off by saying that clickers are only good if they satisfy an instructional need. AMEN! He began talking about the trouble with large classes, talking about the difficulties with taking attendance, gauging student preparedness, and making a class more engaging. I’m not sure I agree with the attendance aspect of things. Not only with attendance, but clickers are so easy to pass off to friends who can answer on your behalf. Taylor talks about basic uses for clickers, including:

  • Find out who is prepared for class
  • Find out where students are starting (what knowledge they have before the topic is explained).
  • Find out anonymously who needs additional help
  • Keep students involved/working during class
  • Find out who understands on an ongoing basis
  • Start student discussion – initiate peer instruction
  • Creates technology rich environment – digital credibility

The session concluded with going over the types of questions that the clickers can help answer. It was pretty basic – nothing new or revolutionary.Overall, the session was entertaining, but I feel like he repeated a lot of the same information from his morning keynote. I really hope that his closing keynote isn’t more of the same…Roundtable discussion – “Jumping the Technology Hurdle.” This session was by far the least engaging of the day. There wasn’t a set agenda, and we spent half of the session with the moderator talking about her experiences with tech. I was bored, but felt bad leaving because there were only 8 people there.Closing Keynote – “Leveraging Technology with Today’s Learners: Looking Ahead.” Taylor began the session with a video from Saturday Night Live which mocks the NeXt generation. Taylor then spends time trying to predict the future of students. Taylor explains “neo-traditionalism,” trying to recreate traditional family dynamics (1 stay at home parent). The problem with that mentality is that Xer’s didn’t grow up with that dynamic, it was the baby boomers that did. Are Xer parents doing things for the kids that they could/should be doing for themselves? Taylor predicts that NCLB won’t go away, and in fact, expands through grade 14 (community colleges). Poor kids in the generation NeXt are actually more like Gen X, because they tend to work more and are more independent.In looking at the digital future, Taylor predicts that the world will become more digitally intense (no surprise there). Social networking will impact all “live” settings and they will start bringing those expectations into real-life. Many more processes will be automated and the number of routine tasks will continue to decrease. In exchange for routine tasks, the need for critical thinking and problem solving will increase. There will also be fewer traditional workplaces. “Less time, more tasks.” – very interesting.Taylor presented an article and data about some post-doc students who took a physics class for 1 week. The data showed that comparing the amount of learning between formal lecture and flipped/inverted classroom approaches doubled. I believe it, but this is quantitative data that the inverted classroom approach does work. Taylor also predicts the ability for instructors to create personalized materials. While I understand his reasoning, I think this is already happening with OER and Creative Commons. My recap of the keynote by Cable Green explains that more.Recap – Overall, I think that the day was well spent. There were some sessions that I was less than thrilled with, but the keynote presentations were worth it. If nothing else, the comedy and delivery style of Mark Taylor made some topics understandable to not only myself and many of the instructors here. The problem, as Taylor explained, is that we are the choir. It’s getting other instructors to buy-in with the shift in paradigm. Here’s to hoping it kicks in, eventually.

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