I work in a growing public university in north Texas that is isn’t afraid to do things differently. While universities aren’t typically strangers to innovation or challenging norms, educators can often find themselves in a place where adopting improvement or championing innovation presents a challenge. This is particularly true as it relates to technology in the classroom. Even as experts in our field, educators often find it difficult to weave technology or social media into lectures, instruction, or programming. We also find that if technology isn’t integrated effectively, it can prevent us from being the trailblazers we wish to be.
One area that strikes me as seemingly difficult is in the area of information sharing. This is a broad term that is defined as simply the ability “to share informational resources among team members collectively,” either within or outside the organization. This is different than simple communication. This is more about making sure you have important information available to the people with whom you want to share the information. For a growing university such as mine, the information that we seek to share with the public is vast, critical, and important to the success of our mission. The details often include:
- Special events
- Degree plans
- Transfer information
- Online programs
- Faculty information
- Social media connections
The challenge for someone like me, who was educated in the 20th century, is that I often find myself trying to share information with students who are being educated in the 21st century. The formats and methods by which 21st century students choose to receive information is often vastly different. Yet, information is typically formatted for and created by those 20th century students! While I like to think I’ve achieved a certain level of sophistication when it comes to using technology in the courses I teach, I realize that educators need to do a better job of using the right technology in the right ways to communicate with this century’s learners.
To make this happen, we need to illustrate for professors and university personnel the importance of leveraging the technology that we have at our fingertips. In my experience, universities often lack in providing professional development opportunities for faculty and for their students. Each of the university disciplines should find ways to appropriately integrate technology into their degree plans and coursework that goes above and beyond “online courses.”
Critical to tackling the challenges of information sharing is ensuring that the network coverage and infrastructure is in place to meet the demands of technological access. Information is worthless in a digital format if students can’t access the information you need them to have, when they need it. In fact, it becomes a frustration and hindrance instead of the valuable tool it’s meant to be. Next, students and professors should be surveyed about the types of technology they use regularly, as well as the platforms they use for tablets and phones (i.e., Android, iOS, Windows, etc.). This will allow you to choose technologies that are best suited to the population you serve. Lastly, ask the experts! Companies like Samsung are working with colleges and universities to help solve access issues and problems related to information sharing. This provides educators a consultative approach from subject matter experts who understand how to effectively implement these solutions specific to the needs of education.
Our students come to us with various devices on differing platforms, and each one uses their technology in a way that fits their individual learning and organizational style. It’s time that we seek ways to “plug in” to them to communicate in the most seamless way possible.