I recently attended the NC3ADL (NC Community College Association of Distance Learning) Conference in Raleigh, NC and was struck by what the keynote speaker NC Community College President Dr. Scott Rawls said in his talk. Dr. Rawls hit a nerve with me and got me thinking about the nature of education as it relates to the current budget crises and America’s ability (and desire) to compete in the “Global Marketplace”. The following article is what I took away from his talk.
The nature of education started changing about 10 years ago. It began slowly as more and more people learned about the internet and the potential of e-mail to communicate with one another. Now after this incremented paradigm shift educator’s are at a crossroads. I believe it’s time we take a good hard look at where we were, where we are and where we want to go as teachers and learners. Today’s communication tools are so incredibly powerful and sophisticated it’s almost as if the course management systems available for teaching and learning have outpaced educators (and students) ability to use them effectively. The Industrial Revolution educational model has run its course and educators must reinvent themselves and learn how to harness and incorporate these new instructional delivery tools and techniques in order to teach students their course content in creative and innovative ways in the online environment
It’s also up to today’s educators to help students transition away from the old “archaic” learning model of “sage on stage” while sitting attentively in rows of desks towards a more interactive, engaging and dynamic learning environment that incorporates a host of new tools and systems such as Blackboard, Moodle, discussion boards, video conferencing, instant messaging, facebook and blogs.
I don’t see this as an optim for educators in 2009. I believe it’s imperative if we are serious about preparing our students for the highly “global” competitive work environment they’ll be competing in. There is sense of urgency now because of dramatic budget cuts in education throughout the county. We must continue to teach our students, but do it in more effective, innovative and proactive ways.
Teachers in 2009 must develop new skill sets over and above their knowledge of specific course content. Computer literacy is now a must for all educators and learners. but that’s only the first step. Harnessing and incorporating online communication tools and applications into their courses is the next step towards breaking away from the industrial mold and reinventing the dynamic between teaching and learning effectively in both online and traditional environments. Aggressive, proactive and extensive professional development at all levels is key to making this technological shift and changing how we think about teaching and learning.
First educators must learn how to use these various instructional delivery tools and then begin changing the way they deliver their course content, in addition to adapting their methodology and expectations to the online environment. This process has already begun. The technological snowball is rolling down the hill and no one is going to stop it. That’s why it’s essential for educators and administrators to regroup, rethink and reinvent their instructional methods before diving into the web enhanced world of education blindly.
After all, you can’t build a home if you don’t know how to use power tools and you can’t teach and compete in the online environment and the global economy if you don’t understand course management systems and the vast array of communication tools that can be incorporated into instructional delivery.