Thoughts on Education, 2/1/2012 – Digital Learning Day

So, Happy Digital Learning Day everyone.  OK, so I had no idea it was that day either, but that’s what I found out as I started moving through the educational news that I read every morning.  I guess it’s appropriate that I’m working on this project at this time then.  I certainly envision any changes that I make to my class to include a significant digital element.  In fact, I would like to go ahead and include more of it in my class now, although I am not sure how at this point.  Thus, part of what I am doing is trying to figure out how to use all of these new tools out there and how to use the various ideas that I am trying to accumulate.  I want to make something new and relevant, and I think that digital technology has to be at the center of it.

What is unfortunate about all of it is how hard it is to find good digital tools for higher education.  If I was teaching K-12, there appear to be a lot of apps out there for use, although I, admittedly, have not evaluated them to see if there is real quality or just quantity.  For higher ed, there’s a lot of stuff out there for organization, note-taking, and whiteboarding (did I just make up that word?).  There’s not much that seems of actual use in a classroom outside of access to resources.  in that category, there’s a ton of stuff out there.  Simply get the Smithsonian, PBS, TED, or many other apps out there, and you have a ton of free content at your fingertips.  If you’re not using Flipbook on an iPad, you are missing out on one of the most spectacular apps that I have ever come across.  So, if I want content, I can get it, but that still puts the creation of assignments and linkages on me.  I know that’s part of my job, but I kind of expected there to be some actual premade content out there for higher ed, and there just isn’t very much.  There are things to show, but not much set up to do.  I was talking with my Dean about this, and he suggested that it is because there’s more money in K-12 ed than in higher ed, and that when there is money in higher ed, it goes to research, not to teaching.  Certainly, in teaching at a community college, I’m really at the low end of the totem pole for these types of things, but I just imagine what could be out there.

I guess if I was ever to consider a different career, I would love to go into the educational technology field.  I’ve considered getting a second Masters in Instructional Design or something like that, but this lack of content seems to be a huge hole in the educational ecosystem.  I don’t know if there’s any money to be made in it, but I’m just waiting around for someone to make it at this point.

In thinking about Digital Learning (caps intentional on this day), I have done some reading, and I’ll include a few of the interesting things I’ve looked at here:

MindShift is one of those programs I found through FlipBook.  I like their discussion of education and technology and read it daily.  Again, if you’re interested in the topic, check them out.  Anyway, I like this article, as it evaluates the role that technology can play in the classroom.  I’m going to have to think on it more deeply at another time.  I like the first three points as some basic starting ideas on technology

  1. Don’t trap technology in a room.  This is very true, as the computer lab is something that many of us (like me) have no access to, and so if I want to use technology, trapping it in a single room makes it useless unless you are one of the lucky ones to be able to schedule in that room.
  2. Technology is worthless without professional development.  Completely agree.  We don’t get any of this provided to us, and I remain so busy between my teaching life and home life that I don’t get a lot of opportunities to go out and participate in professional development either.  I’d love it to be a more real part of my actual job, and I really am going to have to figure out how to make time for it, as it is never going to be just given to me.
  3. Mobile technology stretches a long way.  Use the resources that you have.  A good number of people are carrying around high-powered computers in their pocket.  Give the students some reason to use them beyond texting.

Beyond that, I need to follow up on some of the links in the article, and I have it saved in Evernote (another great free app) to do just that later.

Another thing I read every day is Inside Higher Ed.  They have a number of educational technology resources, and this one celebrates Digital Learning Day as well.  Interesting links off of the page mostly, although I like seeing the discussion generally in this blog.

Through the Inside Higher Ed site, I also found this resource.  I will check out the video later (my internet connection at home is not cooperating for streaming video from my living room right now, and I don’t feel like moving to the bedroom for a stronger signal).  But the broader site of Teachers Teaching Teachers sounds promising and worth checking out more.

Anyway, that’s a few links for today.  I have some on gaming in the classroom that I’ll save for sometime in the next couple of days, so hang on for that.

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About Scott Williams

I am an educator, community-college instructor, thinker, husband, parent of four, student of life, player of video games, voracious reader, restless wanderer, and all-around guy.

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