Preparing Modern Students for a Modern College Experience

EDTECH CHALLENGE | by Jesse M. Langley

When I was in elementary school, teachers drilled it into my head that I would need to know how to properly fill in bubbles for Scantron tests. After I exhibited some shockingly poor fine motor skills, I began to despair for my ability to even make it through high school to college.

A few years later, the educational scene changed. Suddenly, it was computing and typing skills. The bubbles began to matter less and the keys began to matter more. Today’s kindergartners are working on iPads and learning to swipe to unlock and pinch to minimize the screen.

Chances are good that in the 12 years it will take them to reach college, the world will change again. They won’t be looking at tablet computers anymore; they’ll be on to some newer and shinier version of computing.

So what can a teacher who’s trying to keep his or her students ahead of the times do? They’ll need to be ready for anything, but more importantly, they need to be ready for change.

Traditional skills. If your students can barely write with a pen and paper, they’re going to lose a big piece of history, as well as a huge skill set that they may need in the future. There’s no need to teach them how to avoid inkblots from a quill pen, but simple handwriting is still going to be very important, if for no other reason than the fact they’ll be able to use it socially for notecards and letters.

If we lose the basics, we’re going to have nothing to build off of. Even though cursive isn’t required any more by many states, students are still going to want to learn how to do it. If the class schedule can’t accommodate it, at least make sure your students can read fancier scripts.

Today’s skill sets. Your students need to know how to use computers, iPads and smartphones. Chances are good they’ll be spending many, many happy years with these devices. If they fall behind now, they’re going to be behind their whole lives. They can’t simply pick up a new device once the popularity of tablet computers dies down, because new technology will likely be built off of it and will incorporate things like a touch interface.

Putting a third of a day’s lessons onto a computer or tablet will help your students learn the technology thoroughly. Teach the older grades a little bit about coding and how computers work, so they’ll understand the platform their world sits on. Giving them a view into computing now will help them grasp more complicated technology when it comes out.

Keep things simple, and never act like computing is too difficult for them to understand. If students are intimidated by technology now, they’re not going to be interested in picking up new methods of using it later.

The new look of college. When it comes down to it, you as a teacher can’t predict the technological trend. You can’t say for certain that we’ll be wearing virtual reality headsets or GPS-enabled contacts. You can, though, prepare them for some trends you’re seeing in education today.

One of those is online learning. More and more colleges are giving students the option to take classes online or even attend a completely online university. Students that are participating in these will need to have self-control and ability to schedule out their time than most. They’re also going to need to be independent thinkers who can clearly express themselves if they need help with something since a professor won’t be available right away.

You’re not going to be able to get them ready for every challenge life throws at them, which isn’t your job anyway. But you can get them ready to be on the forefront of the technological landscape. Fast thinkers with an affinity for technology will always be leading the pack.

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Jesse M. Langley is a contributor for EdTech Digest covering challenges educators face integrating technology into education and solutions that make sense. Write to:jessemlangley@gmail.com

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