It’s encouraging to hear that the new administration is calling for “an investment in technology” in education, but what are you thinking when you hear that and how do you put it into action? Too often, as faculty, we don’t go far enough in exploring and utilizing new technologies. Too often we learn new technologies to employ in the classroom–f2f or online–but we don’t look into technologies that our students can work in and learn from, whether they are discipline-specific technologies they will use in their professions or technologies that will sharpen their skills and general comfort level with technology.
That’s why you always hear instructional technologists pushing technologies that require collaboration and interaction among students, and why we encourage the use of what we all may think are everyday technologies. Even if you can’t find a technology that pertains to your field of study, you can use ones that will make students into good digital citizens. What are some of the skills all our students need to sharpen?
- Email etiquette and development. Students need to know good practices for communicating by email, since that is the standard for professional communication today. Did you know that the youngest of our students think of email as a tool for old people? That usually translates into poor writing habits, particularly when students start using SMS shorthand in emails–not appropriate. Such components as subject lines, greetings, closings, and signatures can be addressed in your syllabus–if it sounds like an exercise in letter writing, it is.
- Uploading and downloading documents and all that goes with it. Our students need a good understanding of how to handle document exchange. They are wrong if they think it’s only a process needed at school. You can offer a variety of opportunities to work with documents, particularly if you use Blackboard. Use the Assignments feature and the Digital Dropbox to require uploading; use email to require attachments. Educate your students on how to avoid problems when others view their files, from file formats to good filenaming conventions.
- Make sure that your students have had instruction on how to search effectively and how to evaluate information for validity. Here’s a short video explaining that:
The next time you are adopting a technology, think about whether it helps you or your students. That’s fine if it’s a tool to improve your teaching, but do you also have enough uses of technology to help improve your studetns’ skills?