Walls, Credentials, Balloons, Glasses, Digital Stories, ePortfolios, and Everything in between.

We need to look at the writing on the wall: the days of standing in front of a classroom full of students and delivering a lecture full of interesting, important, and useful information are coming to an end.

Don’t believe me?  Go in to a college classroom in which the instructor is delivering a lecture. Are the students listening intently? If you were to stand next to the instructor, how many eyes could you see focused on you?  Chances are, many of the students will be texting, posting, tweeting, reading updates, planning dates in a calendar… and if you’re lucky, maybe they are even typing notes in to their device. The point being: They are PLUGGED IN. Information is everywhere and students no longer need to rely on the college professor to obtain it.

So…what do students need now from college?  Besides the obvious answer of CREDENTIALS. What today’s students really need is PRACTICE.   Students need higher education to practice higher level skills like problem-solving, critical thinking, communicating and how to work together with an increasingly diverse group of others, not just passive listening.

Access to such an incredible body of information and diverse set of tools is going to continue to grow – as will our access to it. Online access increasingly is EVERYWHERE and ALL THE TIME.

Students no longer need to KNOW information, they need more tacit skills like how to FIND, SORT, ANALYZE, CRITIQUE, and CREATE.  Online technology tools can help us to bridge gaps between education, career, and community — if we use them effectively. Doing this takes practice and coaching.

So what do we, in higher education, need to do?

#1) We need to practice using the tools ourselves.

I’ve included a few fun online tools, apps, and info sources that I use to help you get started…

  • Zite: This is a news aggregator App for your phone/handheld device. It begins by asking you to identify some key-words that you are interested in. For example, “Educational Technology,” “Seattle,” “Productivity,” “Digital Storytelling,” and “Bible” were a few of mine — the terms do not necessarily need to be related to one another. The site then pulls together a list of news stories, online articles, blog posts, etc. related to those topics. You can then select any title from the list to read and then rate — thumbs up or thumbs down. The site takes into account your preferences as you choose to read and rate these news articles and becomes ‘smart’ — placing articles it believes you will enjoy most at the top of the list. The more that you read and rate, the ‘smarter’ the service becomes at finding articles that you would like. We have seen a similar phenomena on the Pandora music App.  This is a great way to focus your reading on areas in which you would like to grow your expertise while still maintaining some diversity in this sources you read from!
  • Pixlr: This is a website (though also has some Apps that I have not tried yet) for online photo editing. While there are many online photo editing sites out there, this one is currently in the lead. If you have ever used Adobe Photoshop (it has been the industry standard for editing photos for YEARS), then the “Advanced” section of Pixlr will come easy for you. It is basically a FREE and ONLINE version of the very pricey ($400 +/-) photoshop software. If you are not familiar with Photoshop, the “Efficient” or “Playful” sections may be more your style. Either way, this online tool has made sophisticated photo editing and manipulation sooo easy. Spice up a photo with some effects, do some basic cropping or add text, or get fancy and ‘photoshop’ your face in to a famous photograph. Learning this tool can do WONDERS for your website or blog that is currently so text-heavy and boring that you are the only one reading it.
  • Visual DNA: This website claims “Our technology helps people to understand themselves better and businesses to understand their customers.” I would not disagree with them. Try taking their visual personality test (https://personality.visualdna.com) or assessing your strengths through images (https://whoami.visualdna.com). You may also want to read some of “The Understanding Blog” that frames some complex psychological research in to some easy-to-understand ideas.

#2) We need to share our best practices, our preferred tools (and how we use them), our favorite sources of information (articles, blogs, videos) in order to focus on quality time online without getting lost in the blackhole of quantity time online.

Here’s a tip: Make a list of what you intend to accomplish with your online time before you dive in – then refer back to your list frequently – are you on a tangent?

  • Michael Wesch: Everything that this Cultural Anthropology Professor at Kansas State University creates is GOLD. Dr. Wesch was dubbed “the explainer” by Wired magazine, has won MANY teaching awards, including the CASE/Carnegie U.S. Professor of the Year, and was named an Emerging Explorer by National Geographic (how cool is that?). His videos on culture, technology, and education have been viewed over 20 million times and translated in over 20 languages. Watch them on his YouTube page: http://www.youtube.com/user/mwesch
  • TED ED and Khan Academy: While this concept still has a lot of growing and refining to do before it reaches it’s potential, both TED Talks have been a HUGE hit and source of interesting, useful, contemporary, and relevant information for students and educators alike. Khan Academy also exploded when Bill Gates (the Microsoft one) told reporters that he used the site to teach his kids. These sites attempt to take videos or online lectures and associate them with assignments… “Flipping the Classroom” so to speak. The TED Radio Hour can help you understand concept this if you are not already familiar: http://www.nr.org/2012/06/22/155224654/building-a-better-classroom.
  • TED Talks, Pecha Kucha and other forms of Storytelling: Storytelling is the oldest form of education. There is a Native American Proverb that says “Tell me a fact and I’ll learn, tell me a truth and I’ll believe, tell me a story and I’ll remember it forever.” Here are a few of my favorite education-oriented talks and stories:
    Sugata Mitra: Unstoppable Learning
    Simon Sinek: How great leaders inspire action / the power of WHY / the Golden Circle
    Mike Busch: The Most Valuable Skill (Pecha Kucha Talk)

#3) We need to experiment.

#4) We need to attend events and activities outside of our bubbles.

#5) We need to have fun with all this.

Stay tuned… there is more to come! I have run out of time, but will be populating the final three “need to’s” on my list soon. Please help me! Add comments below with your favorite tools, talks, websites, apps, news sources, ways of finding community events to go to, experiments with online technology, and any generally fun links or sources of related information that you think our readers would enjoy!   LET’S COLLABORATE ON THIS FOLKS! We want our students to do it so let’s model the way!

Thanks for reading!
Matt Wojo

Matt Wojciakowski (Wojo) is a Student Engagement Coordinator with the Carlson Leadership & Public Service Center in the Center for Experiential Learning and Diversity at the University of Washington and the NASPA Region V Technology KC Coordinator. Read more about him by visiting http://expd.washington.edu/people/staff/mattwojo.html.

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