What K-12 Schools Can Learn About Technology From Higher Ed

When it comes to technology, higher education might be leading by example without even realizing it. While colleges and universities turn more and more to technology to deliver courses and programs, K-12 schools throughout the country tend to adopt more of a 'wait and see' attitude. More often than not these schools are seeing how certain learning tools work at the higher level before trying them, or at least a variation, out for themselves. Schools offering Early Childhood Education degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

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Letting Higher Education Test the Waters

Colleges and universities lead the way in technology more out of necessity than anything else. In many cases, K-12 schools simply do not require the type of technology utilized in higher education. For instance, synchronous tools are ideal for colleges, but are not so much needed for K-12 students as physical attendance is required by law in those grades. Still, the technology is there, and can be adapted to earlier education settings.

Take, for example, video lectures. It is very popular for college professors to record or 'capture' their lectures and post them online for students to reference. But wouldn't this be a valuable and useful tool for, say, middle- and high-schoolers as well? Some believe it would. It could, they say, encourage active learning by having students participate more in class discussions since they would not need to be engrossed in note-taking; after all, the teacher's words will be available to them online later. Ultimately, some believe that technology in K-12 settings could lead to students accessing online lectures before going to the classroom, enhancing face-to-face discussions and possibly targeting areas where students need to focus or work harder.

Another technological area that could translate well to K-12 schools would be the use of tablet computers such as iPads or the Dell Streak. These portable computers could potentially replace textbooks and provide a cost savings. Lehigh University associate professor M.J. Bishop, coordinator of the university's Teaching, Learning, and Technology program, told The Journal in November 2010 that he had talked to middle schools about the possibility of students using Kindles and iPads to replace traditional library books.

Some schools are already experimenting with adapting technology that colleges and universities are using to improve the quality and access to education within their own academic settings. To this end, some universities are getting involved in training teachers in the use of technology.

Teaching Teachers

In May 2010, Abilene Christian University (ACU), a private Christ-centered university in Texas, launched its Leadership of Digital Learning graduate certificate program offered through the K-12 Digital Learning Institute. It is designed to introduce K-12 instructors to new learning applications, technological innovations and technology integration to be used in education. In addition to technological aspects, the Institute covers policies, site filtering and supervising younger students in the use of social network sites.

Marist College, a leading arts and sciences college in Poughkeepsie, NY, began sharing its collaborative e-learning environment with Poughkeepsie schools in 2003. The program, Project Greystone, expanded to include other school systems, with dozens of elementary and high schools participating. The environment, called Sakai, helps educators understand software tools that enhance teaching and learning.

Such programs can not only help K-12 teachers better understand technology and develop teaching techniques, they can also help them appreciate the value of technology and its benefit to learning. Billie McConnell, executive director of ACU's K-12 Digital Learning Institute, told The Journal: 'If they don't believe technology is going to help them reach their learning goals, they're not going to implement it. And that's true for kindergarten or higher ed.'

In a perfect example of technology working for K-12 students, learn how public schools in Texas are utilizing videoconferencing to benefit students in rural settings.

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