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Opportunities for Building Skills in Technology in Business and CIS Courses
Interactive Paper #4

imageSince technology advances faster than we can imagine, and the speed of change is so difficult to comprehend, it is important to expose students to current technologies, but more importantly expose them to the resources, skills and strategies to help them think, analyze and understand new technologies.  This lesson is an attempt to help instructors to move in that direction.

Closer to the Truth

A good place to begin is to review this site and the amazing tools it provides. Here you will find a number of on-line, archived discussions on technology.  The one best suited to our topic, How Does Technology Transform Society, is quite provocative and timely.  The distinguished panelists have some interesting ideas about the disappearing workplace, knowledge communities, lifelong learning, along with other ideas and projections.  It is an extraordinary resource for discussion about what the future may hold.

Not Just Computer Skills but Fluency with Technology

The Association of College and Research Libraries distinguishes the difference between computer literacy and fluency with technology.  The report notes that "computer literacy" is concerned with rote learning of specific hardware and software applications, while "fluency with technology" focuses on understanding the underlying concepts of technology and applying problem-solving and critical thinking to using technology. If instructors focus on fluency rather than rote learning, students will be better prepared for future technology shifts.

Keeping Current Is A Challenge

At a site, titled learnativity, you will find an assortment of links, articles, whitepapers and other resources for lifelong learning.  Take a look at the list of business and technology magazines and review their on-line resources.  This is one way to help you and students stay informed about new ideas and technologies.

Skills for Now

US businesses know that in order to retain their leadership positions in the world market, their current and future employees must be comfortable using multiple technologies.

Almost any job in the 21st century will require the ability to use a word processing program, presentation software, database programs and do Internet research. In addition, as businesses move to more on-line operations, these virtual environments will require a comfort zone that extends into using more sophisticated collaborative tools.

By requiring students to use multiple technologies that enhance and expand the learning objectives in your courses, you will help them build the skills needed to participate more fully in a global economy.

Make Sure They Have the Basics

According to the 21st Century Workforce Commission
: American jobs are being and will continue to be radically impacted by information technology. New jobs will be created and old jobs will either be eliminated or significantly transformed.  Check out the mission of this commission and their workforce report.  If you would like to hear and see more, check out the webcast of their final report and the focus on the responsibilities of higher education in the information technology arena.

Yahoo Internet Life has current tech and Internet news. This site recently posted Most Wired Colleges Survey. This extensive report reviewed the technology resources of over 1300 colleges and universities.  The survey assessed a school's sheer computing power, integration of the Net into curricula and classrooms, availability of technical support for students, and numerous other criteria. Collectively, these factors helped determine each school’s WQ (wiredness quotient)—the overall measure of an institution's technology resources. How do you think your college measures up? What is its WQ?

Suggest Students Do A Computer Skills Assessment

Ask students to consider the computer skills they have right now and those they think they will need in the future.  Assign them an on-line evaluation that will objectively measure their skills and then ask them to bring the results to class for discussion.  Here are two sites that offer free, on-line assessments.

University of Minnesota at Duluth offers 7 Self-Assessment tools to check out how well you can utilize basic computer programs. These are short and to the point. Try one or two and see what you think. Would these assessments be valuable for your students?

Rutgers University has designed some good on-line tutorials for their students. This tutorial website is called “Technology SOS” and is for students entering their Master in Library Science program but need technology skills to advance through the classes. When you arrive at the site there is a good on-line self-assessment. Nothing fancy here but good content and instructionally sound.

Conducting Serious Web Research Is a Must

The ability to find valuable information on the Internet is necessary to get by in college and the workplace.  What strategies are your students using to search the web and what kind of results are they getting? Here is an on-line tutorial out of UC Berkeley that might prove valuable.

Model What You Want from Students

One way to add pizzazz to your presentations or papers is to add clip art, photos, sounds and or motion. The Microsoft Design Gallery offers updated, interesting files that are free and easy to use. Go to the link and in the search box type student. How many files did you find? Next time you create a document insert a graphic or sound if it would enhance and compliment your content.  You might also check out the hundreds of office document templates and contracts available.

Consider Adding Technology Components to Your Courses

Elliott Masie
has coined the term “blended” learning to mean a combination of teaching and training where more traditional components are enhanced and blended with on-line components. You might consider adding a discussion list and chat component to your traditional class.  Then students will begin to get the idea of seriously participating in these environments. As many businesses begin to incorporate discussion lists as part of their management team meetings, it is valuable for students to get practice in carefully crafting and replying to messages.

Teaching Through Technology here you’ll find some stories about how college instructors are using technology in their classrooms. Some were successful and some not. You really do need to hear both sides to this story!

Include Assignments Posted to the Web

Are you taking full advantage of the power of PowerPoint? Here is a quick tutorial created for instructors. It has short focused advice on using the basic PowerPoint

Want something more sophisticated? Have you tried putting a PowerPoint presentation on-line? This is a visually interesting way to provide students with information. Go to this website and see if you can create a web deliverable presentation.

Maybe there is not time for students to present individual projects in class, but how about having them post them to the web? Here is a good example of a presentation that shows a powerpoint with audio.

Incorporate NPR or Harvard On-Line In an Assignment

You might ask students to listen to a NPR broadcast on-line as part of an assignment. Have students listen and report on a current event or business trend.

Be sure to check out the “free resources” available from Harvard!  You can often get a chapter from a newly released business book.  Read an excerpt from: Evolve: Succeeding in the Digital Culture of Tomorrow, by Rosabeth Moss Kanter,(HBS Press, 2001).

Use E-Mail to Communicate with Students

E-mail is the most used written business communication tool and is extraordinarily powerful.  Students and employees often send poorly constructed e-mails without concern.  However, the way they communicate, no matter what the medium, reflects their style. As with personal communication, ineffective e-communications leads to misunderstandings, frustration and lost time. All of these directly affect a business’s “bottom line.” Stress the importance of e-mail in the business world.  Give students practice in reading and writing email.  Advise them not to write in haste or anger and to reread what they write before sending out an e-mail. In addition, students should be aware that e-mail is not a confidential communication.

Stay Abreast of New Technologies

Participate in New Ways to Learn

Here is an interesting site that offers live and archived webcasts for instructors on technology and other innovative subjects.  You can sign up for free seminars, and they have excellent software that checks out the readiness of your computer for the event. Look at the list and find one webcast that interests you. Try it out.

Know Your Competition

More and more on-line courses and colleges are coming to market to compete for the students in your courses and colleges.  What are the advantages and disadvantages of these new learning environments?  What can you learn from them? What can they learn from you?  Here is the “first” on-line school of design and new media.  It is appropriately called Sessions. EDU.  You have probably taken a look at the University of Phoenix, the largest private university in the country.  Check out the courses and degrees offered and the flex education they advertise. 

Get Hot Synced

You may not want a Palm Pilot or similar handheld computer device, but these are highly visible in today’s workplace. “Hot syncing” business cards and other exchanges of information are becoming common place. At least, be aware of new technologies and what they have to offer.
Skim through this article about the use of handhelds in technology courses and how they facilitated collaborative learning.

 Technology is here to stay and will profoundly influence the employability of your students.  According to Yahoo: Simply put, technology plays a crucial role in higher learning today. It's spawning powerful interactive tools for professors in the classroom, providing scholars access to vast digital libraries, and functioning as a social forum for students. Technology has revolutionized business, now it must revolutionize learning!

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