Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Redesigning Classes for Success

By Sean Scarpiello

As a society, America is moving extremely quickly. Technology is moving at such a fast rate that it seems as if there is a new cell phone or laptop with the latest innovations released every month. We are now able to bring more advanced technology to even more people at cheaper costs, all due to these redesigns in technology. This idea does not apply only to technology. Modern science and medicine is also subject to these fast paced changes. As scientists discover better and more efficient ways to do things like save energy, create new compounds, and cure disease, the rest of society is rushing to catch up and implement these latest and greatest innovations. Since fields like technology and science are moving at an extremely fast pace, it is often difficult to keep up. One area where this is highly visible is in education.

For many educational institutions, especially in primary and secondary education, teachers can often times get into the habit of teaching the curriculum in the same style each year. The individual curriculums do not change much over the years, so there is often times little motivation to change. This is not due to laziness, but rather the comfort all humans have with familiarity. The problem with this small degree of change is that although the curriculum changes little, technology and the rest of society is changing a lot. So by missing out on making these changes, educators are missing out on new ways to teach their classes. In fact, these changes may make learning easier or more fun for the students and more efficient or cost effective for administrators.

One area I have experienced this first hand is in my education. In high school, my sister is taking the same English course that all high school seniors are required to take. In this class, they are currently reading the same books and discussing the same topics in a similar manner that I had when I was in high school. In three years, there has been little change made to the teaching of the course and even less integration of innovations like technology. On the other hand, many of my college professors are struggling to keep up with the almost daily updates in technology. Last year, I had asked a few students a year ahead of me what to expect in a genetics class. The idea that they had conveyed was much different than what I had later experienced. The updated course had implemented things like online discussion forums and webinars over the internet where students could ask the professor questions. These new applications in class ended up increasing class average when compared to those of previous years. In many cases, professors implementing similar ideas not only found that students succeeded more, but it also decreased costs.

Many schools are looking into programs that help educators redesign their classes. In fact, there are several organizations whose purpose is merely that – to redesign class structures. One such organization is the National Center for Academic Transformation (NCAT). This is a non-profit organization that offers conferences and free webinars to education professionals interested in redesigning their courses. In many of their past cases, they have been found to not only improve the success of students, but lower costs for the schools. These kinds of redesign programs are offered at low to no costs for schools and can greatly affect the ways classes are taught in schools. They also encourage teachers to take on new perspectives and ways of thinking, so classes are taught differently.

Overall, the low to no cost programs offered by organizations like NCAT provide new and innovative ways to increase academic success and lower costs, often times by implementing technology. These kinds of “nothing-to-lose” programs will allow teachers to look at their class and curriculum in new ways so they can change it for the better. In all, educators could all learn a thing or two to help improve class time and student success.

Source: http://www.thencat.org/index.html

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