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Build it, But Will They Come? Technology can move through you, over you or with you. Take your pick

By Michael Pelitera, M. Ed.,Virtual Campus Instructional Technology Trainer, Instructor, School of Education, Indian River State College

Michael Pelitera, M. Ed.,Virtual Campus Instructional Technology Trainer, Instructor, School of Education, Indian River State College

Faculty are busy, so how do you reach them?
The purveyors of technology training at your institution, are probably tweeting out the windows, “Come one, come all. It’s your chance to learn this practical, applicable, easy to use, powerful and impacting slice of technology that may change the way you teach… if you let it.” So much for “Build it and they will come.” So, where is everyone?

Smart Classrooms are only as “Smart” as the instructor who is willing to take the time to train in the pedagogy and apply the best technical strategy. Pedagogy must be the driving force for real learning, pairing with the best vehicle to deliver the message. At the same time, pedagogy must evolve for what new technologies have to offer(Eckhaus, E., &Davidovitch, N., 2019).No longer is technology an afterthought; it’s pervasive and a vital process of the learning experience across all modalities. Making it relevant and enjoyable are the keys to student success.

The most expensive tool is not always the most effective. Many applications are free and immersive, and produce accurate and informative assessments. Technology is good like that. If we can teach students to how to think, we can teach them how to learn. If they learn how to learn, they can do anything. Studies show that if students are having fun while learning through gamification,they will learn the concepts faster with repeated retrieval-based learning activities (Pertovich-Dzerdz, 2019). 

"The instructor must remain confident when the technology fails in front of the students. When that happens, it just might call for some good ole’ fashioned teaching!"

Performance of our students is heavily influenced by the presence of the person who serves as facilitator, professor and mentor and nurturer when necessary. Meanwhile, discussions among policy makers evolve around not only what instructors are teaching, but how students are being taught. Are students able to apply the basic concepts and reach beyond, applying integral solutions of their own?

Incorporating the “Smart Classroom” environment

Existing technologies within many Smart Classrooms include lecture recording software, interactive whiteboards, classroom tablets and internet access to allow for students and faculty a plethora of active learning opportunities. How do we encourage faculty to buy-in and endorse using these technologies with confidence and enthusiasm? Pressure to use these omnipresent technologies is common at most institutions, and failure of effective use of the technology exposes the vulnerability of instructors.Adoptability occurs faster and more frequently with full-timers and stems from the inherent culture of the institution. But what is the incentive for adjunct instructors to learn and use these technologies?

While we expect technologies to be seamless, the reality is that the lesson doesn’t always go as planned. The accountant knows his numbers, but how well can he/she teach in pedagogical terms? He/she is “encouraged” to use the technology for teaching, but training must exist in both domains to expect proficiency.The instructor must remain confident when the technology fails in front of the students. When that happens, it just might call for some good ole’ fashioned teaching!

Success depends on effective training

At Indian River State College (IRSC)—a public, comprehensive college in Florida that serves nearly 30,000 students annually—an active pool of approximately 1,000 adjuncts teach across five campuses during any given semester. Reaching those who want professional development is an ambitious task.

Fortunately, the “All In” group, known as early adopters, jump on board and attend training sessions. Those who make the effort to show up to trainings are showered with support and assurances that “We can and will do this together.” For in-house training “gurus,” the message should be, “No matter what technology is being used, a support system is in place and accessible.” The IRSC Virtual Campus and Institute of Academic Excellence (IAE) partner to provide a sandbox community where all are invited to work, play and learn, and where pedagogical strategies and technology tips are fodder for all. Nationally recognized Virtual Campus Instructor Training courses deliver skillsets for both technology and pedagogy through the learning management system over a three-week period. Tailored content prepares instructors to teach online and in SmartClassrooms.

At the IAE, training sessions are served based on times and topics driven by faculty needs. Through the IAE, sponsoring divisions recognize adjuncts during the “Adjunct Appreciation” event, where attendance for all administrators and faculty is highly encouraged. These faculty demonstrate forward-thinking approaches to learning, implemented through positive attitude and use of best teaching practices in their classrooms. A photographic shrine celebrates each individual as the “Instructor of the Year” for their division. “One College, One Faculty” emblazes the wall, reminding all that we are all in this journey together.

Overall, great professional development is like taking a shuttle to the moon. Ask who wants to drive, and who wants to come along for the ride.

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