Saturday, July 26, 2014

My Vision of the Classroom of the Future


Wow, my last new Fall semester is starting for Southwestern Illinois College. I will be retiring in May. I am in my home office getting ready to teach my classes. This is so much easier than the olden days when I had to travel by car, use $50 of gas a week, and report to an office every day.

My students are not just from the SWIC area as in the past. I have students from all over the world learning together and teaching each other new concepts. They meet in our “virtual” classroom where each student’s feed is shown in one place. Everyone has the ability to lead or participate in the class discussion.

Many of my students attend the 30 minute hybrid classes during their lunch hour. They can log in to the class from any location using their Google glasses.

Each of my students have their own blogs where homework is posted and fellow students comment and respond to each other. The class has a social bookmarking site where the class compiles a list of web sources on each topic and shares them. This is so much easier than when they had to buy textbooks and lug them around. Every time a student posts to their blog, I receive an alert from the RSS feeds that I have set up. It is easy to see what new topics and posts the students have shared.

In the past, I had to set up my entire online class. It took weeks! Now with my class wiki, I set up topics and the students build their own learning environment with online resources that are of interest to them and the class. I find the students love learning this way. Everyone can find information that is useful to them, their country, and their interests.

With so many different multimedia free sources on the web these days, I am now doing all of my assessments are projects. Students are no longer tested on wrote knowledge that they have, but on how they use their ability to use resources and create assignments that will benefit them and be used in their life. My students use free online apps for storing and sharing photographs, podcasting class assignments, and screencasting instructional videos.

Social networking is very important for my class. Not only do they use the old technologies such as Facebook and Twitter, but they also do mashups of their class notes, related web sites, video and podcasts they have created, and share them with the class. All of my students’ projects have been tagged and many are likely to be favorited by professionals in their fields. It gives my students a sense of pride to be published daily and considered an expert while still in college. I am very proud of all of them.

I remember in a class I took in 2014 how we talked a lot about whether Connectivism was a learning theory or not. With all of the new web technologies and the way our students are using them, there is no doubt at all. Our students love learning this way. They can find their own learning and use their web skills to put together information better than I would have every thought.

It is wonderful to have so many guest speakers from different places throughout the world giving my students tours of their facilities through Skype. The students can learn so much better with a real-life expert giving real-live examples!

It seems so long ago that I brought a stack of papers home to grade. Most businesses and schools have totally done away with their printers. With Google glasses, every personal or work document and all of the information of the web is available right in front of your eyes. All you need do is give a verbal command, and that document will appear before your very eyes. Now that we have the National WiFi system provided by the government, I have access to grade homework assignments from anywhere. I no longer have to be at my computer! I graded this week’s lesson and taught my class from Rome. The students enjoyed sitting with me on the Spanish steps for their 30 minute class. I also learned that one of my students, Tricia, is in Florence. We may get together next week to show the class examples of how Florence is the technology center of Italy.

As an older teacher, I have been through many stages of technology. I can remember my first word processor. It had a built-in spell checker. I was so impressed. It took 20 minutes to run a spell check on a 10 page document. Then it gave you a list of the words spelled wrong. You had to go find them and look them up in the dictionary to fix them. I thought there would never be any technology more impressive than that!

My grandchildren are now in elementary school. My daughter feels it is important to have her children socialize face-to-face with other students, so they attend school three days a week while the other two are spent at home learning by networking in to the classroom. She tells her children of the old days when she had to go to school every day and how they had to leave their phones in their lockers during the school day. My grandchildren look at her old paper textbooks and ask how they sent in their homework. I feel so old!

As I reminisce on my 37 years of community college teaching, I am happy to have been a part of the changes in education. There are very few jobs that allow people to keep up with technology as I do. I am continually forced to learn new ways to inspire my students. I look forward to retirement. I will now focus my efforts on helping my friends at the retirement home learn new ways to communicate with their families and friends.

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