From education to employment

The skills lecturers must rapidly learn to teach new age groups

The DfE announced that Further education (FE) colleges will be able to enrol 14- to 16-year-olds who wish to study high quality vocational qualifications from September 2013. Colleges now aim to attract students of all abilities who want early access to practical and technical education. Many lecturers have not dealt with students this age before and must rapidly learn new skills. Philosopher and educational reformer John Dewey once said: “If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.”  These words are particularly applicable to the use of new technologies in colleges.

What can college staff do?

Education institutes are using new technologies to provide three additional features for their courses. Lecturers are learning new skills through collaboration and then providing for their students:

  • Opportunities to develop up to date work based skills

  • Chances to work collaboratively

  • Chances to work globally

Opportunities to develop up to date work based skills

Lecturers- The new technologies are providing opportunities such as using: Skype to talk to colleagues in other colleges; Tagxedo to turn words into visually appealing word clouds and be displayed the college’s Tagxedo gallery; Survey Monkey to collect the views of learners and consider how they can be used to enhance educational opportunities at the college.

Students are benefitting from accessing the astonishing range of Open Education free resources to develop their own areas of expertise and acquire specialised subject knowledge. There are over 600 free online courses on offer.

A Voki is a talking voice character (or avatar). Lecturers are discovering some of the unique roles these speaking avatars can play in education. For lecturers speaking avatars can add a more “human” element to the online class website or blog. So often students who get stuck on a question while completing their homework decide they are better off not finishing the assignment since they do not know what to do next. One way to alleviate this issue is to create an online help desk using a Voki.  By creating one avatar and adding new recordings the lecturer can quickly provide new help tips as needed. Alternatively student experts are used instead of the lecturer.

All these competences are essential for today’s workers – for both lecturers and learners.

Students – are often more at ease with using new technologies but have not thought about using them in an educational context.  Examples being employed are: listening to an expert through Skype, using Tagxedo  to develop their lexicon of language and reduce their over reliance on frequently used words; using a voki to get shy students involved; making podcasts to listen to in a ‘flipped classroom’ and animoto videos -collaboratively design multimedia presentations which express understanding of content through photography. We all know that preparing a presentation for a large group of people becomes a more demanding task than one intended for just a few friends.  Imagine preparing work to present to the ‘entire world’! This is what these new technologies allow students to do.  All these skills are vital for today’s workforce.

Chances to work collaboratively

One such technology is Livebinder an extremely useful online tool which allows users to organise webpages, documents, videos and images into a “binder” thus creating their own up to date “textbooks”.

Edmonton Public School, Alberta Canada provides access to online collaboration tools at school or at home through the use Googledocs.  Engagement and homework completion rates have increased significantly, and students are accountable to each other and their homework/writing/work is never left at home or lost in lockers. Students’ writing assignments clearly reflect both lecturer and peer feedback.  Lecturers are also seeing students’ working on documents simply for the sake of improving them. Other students have taken the initiative to create sites on topics of personal interest.

Chances to work globally

A final component is the “global” nature of the work – it is as easy to collaborate with a person for example in Melbourne Australia just as it is with the person sitting next to you.  Podcasts are available on the web describing educators’ experiences motivating students– international CPD in action. Lecturers are playing these recordings at their leisure and experiencing world class professional development from their sofas.

However, for lecturers wishing to use the new technologies a radical philosophy is required.  Ownership and control is very much with the learner; something that lecturers need to understand and accept.  Furthermore students can – and will – know and understand more than their lecturers, a paradigm shift for those working with the tools described.

Dr Glenys Hart is an independent education consultant who is involved in a wide range of projects, including science and ICT, mentoring new science and mathematics teachers, personalised, collaborative and global learning

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