In an era where mobile devices have gone beyond a method of communication to becoming another appendage with their own places on the dinner table, it seems as though technology is integrating itself into every aspect of life.
Kids are growing up with digital devices and technology plays a huge role in their lives, and soon — their education.
Shawn Orr has a 20-year long career as a professional educator. She currently works as an adjunct professor of public relations and communications at Adrian College in Adrian, MI.
Orr also works as an education consultant for Cengage Learning, a multimedia publishing company that offers technological resources for classrooms. She spoke at the APSCU’s annual conference in Las Vegas on Tuesday on the topic of the educational digital evolution, and how to help educators keep pace with technology.
The discussion focused on higher education’s next steps in a realm where educators are competing in a sometimes-unwinnable battle with endless social media feeds and grumpy cat memes. Because of this, some instructors might be hesitant about bringing more technology into the classroom. Orr says that taking technology head on is the key to effective learning with millennial students.
“Times are changing," Orr said. "Twenty years ago it was a very different educational environment."
Orr specializes in helping schools and faculty make better use of both technology and class time by using Internet applications and programs to help better engage students, but that doesn’t mean that one day a computer will replace your favorite professor.
"It’s never going to replace good instruction," Orr said.
She added that professors may be content experts, but may have never had classes in educational pedagogy. "Faculty are hungry for professional development, asking themselves, ‘how can I use this technology to benefit my students?’"
These technologies go beyond e-books and typical online services that have become commonplace in today’s classrooms. Orr spoke of newer tools such as eyejot.com, a video emailing site where students can connect with their professors digitally. She also pointed to other websites that professors could use creatively to better engage students. Screenomatic.com is Orr’s go-to for screen-capture software and she also recommends Bubbl, a visual mind mapping software for online brainstorming sessions.
Orr said that these services all help to escape the paradigm of a standardized form of learning, and helps with an education style that is more easily catered toward individual student’s needs.
What’s important? “Customization," Orr said. “Individualizing for every student to help them succeed."
For the critics against the use of more technology in classrooms, Orr says that the face-to-face aspect of learning is still important.
"Interpersonal skills and critical thinking are crucial. We have to give students value and they value technology."
Orr went on to say that the value lies within finding ways students can use technology and become engaged and excited about learning.
“It’s not just that they use technology, they embrace it, it’s a part of who they are," Orr said.