Here’s how you do tablet integration

Fresno State to launch DISCOVERe tablet program as classes begin

tablet-fresnoDozens of Fresno State classes have introduced a new interactive tablet curriculum that began Aug. 21 when fall semester classes began. The first 1,200 students have enrolled in the university’s DISCOVERe program and 33 faculty members will teach a variety of courses incorporating tablet technology.

Fresno State had been preparing to launch the DISCOVERe program since President Joseph I. Castro arrived on the campus a year ago, and on Thursday, Castro officially launched the program with a scissor-free, virtual ribbon cutting at the new DISCOVERe Hub, a technology help desk similar to Apple’s Genius Bar, located on the first floor of Fresno State’s Henry Madden Library.

Students and the general public can visit the DISCOVERe Hub for training on how to use their tablets and workshops on apps that can help make tablets more effective in the classroom. Trained student DISCOVERe guides also will provide help with laptops, smart phones and other technology.

“This marks the beginning of a journey that is bold, innovative and laser-focused on student success,” Castro said. “As more courses get redesigned to incorporate technology, our goal is to build a sustainable program that keeps the cost of attending Fresno State affordable while increasing graduation rates.”

(Next page: The tablet vision)


Op-ed: 10 books to read in college to celebrate literacy

September is National Literacy month—and these books are higher-ed ‘musts’

books-literacy-college September is National Literacy Month, and just like many other areas of education, the term ‘literacy’ is in flux, incorporating new definitions that both traditional curriculum as well as more progressive courses in higher education have a responsibility to nurture in students.

Though your first thought may turn to digital literacy and the skills associated with online research [and you wouldn’t be wrong!], as social media platforms and the internet shatter geographic boundaries, literacy is also changing to mean having a well-informed perspective on a multitude of topics—a perspective that includes those from diverse cultures as well as traditional Western ideologies.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m an English major coming from a private liberal arts college, so waxing poetic on literacy in the 21st century could take all day. But while digital and technology literacy is essential…there are still books that do a darn good job of helping today’s student become literate; literate in the sense of not only being able to carry on a conversation about global politics, but become knowledgeable enough of society, economics, cultures, and changing world paradigms to perhaps make better life choices.

And making more well-informed life choices—be that through choosing the right career pathway, analyzing student loans, or becoming a more responsible citizen—well, isn’t that what higher education is all about?

So without further ado, and with the preface that these 10 books are A) ones that I personally read in college that blew my hair back; and B) are completely subjective, here are the books I believe every student should read in college.

(Next page: 10 books to read in college)


Vocational education is making a comeback

The future is bright as traditional academic institutions and vocational schools are reinventing how students learn

vocational-educationWhen you think about vocational education, you might conjure up a picture of a mechanic or a carpenter. Historically, vocational education, rooted in learning a particular skill set, was positioned in direct contrast with traditional higher-education learning, based primarily on academic theory.

Vocational education often was deemed a second-tier educational choice for those who could not go to college. Today, however, vocational education is making a comeback.

In today’s information economy, demand for specialized, technical skills has become a necessity. With a blurring of lines between skills-based and theory-based education, it’s worth exploring the impact of vocational training on the future of education.

The number of niche providers of vocational training is on the rise, particularly in areas where specialized skills are required for job advancement. Schools have redesigned programs to be shorter-term and focused exclusively on skill-building. For example, Tribeca Flashpoint Media Arts Academy offers marketing bootcamps for students, and General Assembly offers product management and web development immersion courses.

We have also seen this demand for specialized skills in the computer coding market. Coding has been hailed as the untapped opportunity in the U.S. job market, with computer programming jobs growing at two times the national average of other job growth. However, less than 2 percent college graduates leave with computer science degrees. In response, vocational schools like the New York Code and Design Academy have been popping up across the country to teach students the computer skills they need to excel in as little as two months.

(Next page: Three ways to adopt vocational education into your curriculum)


Hot new skills course gets the cloud treatment

New entrepreneurship mini-course is free and online

entrepreneurship-NMC-freeThe NMC Academy, the New Media Consortium’s online learning initiative, has announced a new mini-course, “Teaching Entrepreneurship with HP LIFE e-Learning,” developed in partnership with HP.

HP LIFE e-Learning is a free, cloud-based, peer-reviewed e-learning program that offers online IT and business skills training for entrepreneurs. Part of HP Living Progress, the company’s vision for creating a better future for everyone through its actions and innovations, the goals of HP LIFE e-Learning include helping create jobs and stimulating economic growth.

“Through this exciting partnership with HP, our goal is to inspire an entrepreneurial spirit in teachers, which we believe will nurture student creativity and entrepreneurial thinking reinforced through technology,” said Dr. Holly Ludgate, director of the NMC Academy. “The NMC is dedicated to providing powerful learning opportunities that enable educators to gain 21st century skills, and HP LIFE e-Learning embodies the innovative, hands-on approaches we want to see reflected in classrooms across the globe.”

Facilitated by Ludgate, “Teaching Entrepreneurship with HP LIFE e-Learning” is self-paced and estimated to take 9-12 hours so that learners can engage with the material around their schedules. The content is organized into four themes, designed to guide them strategically through the HP LIFE e-Learning entrepreneurship lesson development process, moving from the value of the entrepreneurial mindset, to the HP LIFE e-Learning platform and then implementing in the classroom and connecting to a global community.

(Next page: Themes of the course; enrollment information)


5 simple ways to streamline campus technology

Paige Francis, CIO for Information Technology Services at Fairfield University, shares five tips to prepare for a future of rapid technology growth


Somewhere along the line, it seems that higher-education technology leaders hit a development gap where the KISS principle was routinely ignored. The “Keep It Simple Stupid” adage states that “systems perform best when they have simple designs rather than complex ones.”

It appears this gap has coincided with significant advancements in technology, leading to near-immediate obsolescence—and resulting in an overabundance of clunky technology and an over-outfitting of space. In a nutshell, more has resulted in less. We oversupplied and over-indulged, and now many institutions are forced to maintain these cumbersome environments … or are they?

Here are five suggestions for getting back to the basics and streamlining campus technology.

1. Telepresence sounds fancy, but…

Unless you are a Fortune 500 company or a vendor for Walmart, it’s entirely possible that the amount of money you invested in an end-to-end telepresence unit could have been avoided. Between Google Hangouts, WebEx, and Skype, outfitting a small conference room that might get used a few hours a week with a five-figure telepresence package is likely overkill. Are you in the business of making conference calls? If not, you might not need a comprehensive “telepresence.” You most definitely don’t need two.

(Next page: More higher-education technology tips)


What does ed-tech look like in the college classroom?

New aggregated data shows that not all technology is accepted, and not all students use tech the same

edtech-technology-studentsTraditional colleges and universities are currently racing to update technology infrastructure to accommodate mobile and online technologies deemed critical for today’s students. But what is the rate of use for each technology? Are faculty eagerly incorporating mobile technology? Do students still value emails?

According to new aggregated data on the habits of education technology use in higher education, there are some ed-tech practices students prefer over others, while faculty still haven’t warmed to the idea of social media platforms during courses.

The data, which comes from sources like the Pew Research Center, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and other studies, reveals not only how students and faculty use technology, but some of the biggest problems associated with technology use in the classroom.

Data from the newly created infographic shows that:

  • Though 81 percent of students use laptops for sending email in class, students don’t spend as much time on school-based email (only 6 minutes per day), and often complain about professors sending emails.
  • When polled, faculty do not want to ‘friend’ student on Facebook, and students don’t want to ‘friend’ their professors, yet both do so in abundance.
  • Some of the most innovative technologies currently used in higher-ed classrooms today include: Virtual worlds, video games as instructional tools, online simulations, blogging and forums, online learning centers and the trusty keypad!
  • According to faculty, the number one negative effect of technology in the classroom is distraction, followed by cheating and lower grades; many professors are adding detailed social media and technology use policies in their syllabi.
  • 75 percent of students acknowledge that bringing their laptops into the classroom increased the amount of time they spent on activities unrelated to learning, like checking email and social networking.
  • 59 percent of students who use social networking talk about educational topics online.

(Next page: The full data and infographic)


This 3D ‘sci-fi technology’ is revolutionizing universities

Critical uses for 3D printing expand to all departments; faculty say it’s the future

3D-universities-technologyIn just the span of one year, a relatively new technology is beginning to transform every department within colleges and universities, thanks to its versatility, general affordability, and ‘wow’ factor: 3D printing. And from campus libraries to chemistry departments, faculty and students are reaping the benefits of what was once considered science fiction.

“If you can think of it, you can print it,” said Tony Frankino, assistant professor of biology in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics at the University of Houston (UH), who believes that 3D printers are transforming university teaching and research.

The concept of 3D printing has been around since the 1980s, but advances in the technology–along with reduced costs–have made the printers more practical for everyday use in academia.

(Next page: How universities are using 3D every day)


Here’s how to reach every student brain

Expert gives educators tips on how to get every student brain to learn

brain-learning-neuroscienceBy now, most educators know that classroom practices such as differentiating instruction, critical thinking, and making the environment less stressful for students are critical to a 21st-century education. But…why does it work? One education and brain expert says it all comes down to chemicals and neurons.

Dr. Sarah Armstrong, the senior director for statewide K-12 professional development at the University of Virginia and a former elementary school principal and assistant superintendent of curriculum, said she became a “brain junkie” in the 1980s and never looked back.

Armstrong, author of Teaching Smarter With the Brain in Focus: Practical Ways to Apply the Latest Brain Research to Deepen Comprehension, Improve Memory, and Motivate Students to Achieve, discussed with educators how students learn at the chemical level, and why certain practices succeed when others fail.

“In lots of classrooms around the country, practice doesn’t always work, no matter how much a teacher might have planned. There are also many struggling learners out there who may seem like they just don’t fit into the ‘school’ category,” she said. “But if we look at neuroscience research, and understand how the brain learns and how, in general, it likes to learn, we can fix some of those learning gap problems.”

(Next page: Good and bad stress)


Why is competency-based education so hard to study?

Students need to learn how to learn in a competency-based model that gives them greater choice

competency-based-learningA few research pitfalls seem to be creeping into the still nascent world of K-12 competency-based education: first, the challenge of moving from discussing high-level theory to describing precisely competency-based practices.

And second, going from identifying specific practices to designing sufficiently specific, appropriate evaluation to measure the effects of those practices.

Both of these tensions can make conversations about competency-based education feel speculative. The term “competency-based” often describes a wide range of classroom practices, but schools that call themselves competency-based may not subscribe to all such practices. And even when these practices are spelled out, we have yet to study them in isolation, to understand which—if any—drive student growth and in what circumstances.

In order to really study competency-based models, the field may need more specific categories than “competency-based” to translate the theory into practice; and we likely need new research paradigms to evaluate these specific practices.

This month’s RAND study on three competency-based education pilot programs is a great example of these challenges. The study looks at how three relatively high- profile institutions in competency-based education—Adams County School District 50, the Asia Society schools, and the School District of Philadelphia—implemented competency-based pathways in five school districts during the 2011–12 and 2012–13 school years.

Some of the findings echo much of what I observed through interviews with 13 schools in New Hampshire last year: competency-based education looks different in different contexts; schools implementing competency-based education face real technology challenges; and different students in such systems likely have different needs. The researchers took pains to try to isolate the effects of competency-based based education on student outcomes and dropout rates, but in some cases where unable to find statistically significant differences.

The study itself is a great read, but it also confirmed the tensions inherent in trying to study competency-based approaches.

(Next page: Three competency-based questions to consider)


City businesses see value in hiring foreign students after graduation

City encourages diversity of ideas and cultures; sees monetary benefits

city-businesses-foreignNearly 40 percent of foreign students who graduate from Oklahoma City metropolitan area colleges stay and get jobs here, a new study shows.

Based on data from 2008 to 2012, the Brookings report identifies 118 metro areas with the largest numbers of foreign students and measures their monetary contributions to their U.S. metropolitan destinations.

Oklahoma City ranked 28th with 8,576 students on the F-1 visa — the most common visa issued to foreigners studying in a full-time academic program. The top destination institutions were Oklahoma Christian University, Oklahoma City University, Southern Nazarene University, University of Central Oklahoma and University of Oklahoma.

Foreign students paid $113,073,309 in tuition and $70,156,544 in living costs.

The report — released Friday as part of the Global Cities Initiative, a joint project of Brookings and JPMorgan Chase — suggested metropolitan leaders nationwide take steps to realize the full benefit foreign students bring. These include:

  • Leveraging foreign student connections with their home communities abroad to facilitate and deepen economic exchange.
  • Retaining foreign student skills by 1) developing programs to connect graduates to employers located in the school’s metropolitan area, 2) helping local employers obtain the necessary visas for foreign graduates with in-demand skills and 3) advocating for immigration reform to make more visas available for graduates who want to stay in the U.S.

“Foreign students are a significant source of earnings for U.S. metro economies in several ways,” said Neil Ruiz, associate fellow for the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program and author of the report.

(Next page: Business leaders’ efforts to attract and retain)