“The world’s next generation of leaders has a responsibility to take advantage of the growing opportunities that have come with a rapid influx of technology and communication throughout the globe.”
Higher education is up against myriad challenges, from declining enrollment to rising costs and shifting demographics. The majority of college students today, for example, are non-traditional, and this trend is expected to continue, as change is a constant—the average number of jobs held and career changes has been increasing in the span of an individual’s professional life. Education is being redefined from an activity for a set age to a lifelong need. Meanwhile, student debt is an omnipresent concern. In response to these dynamics, higher education has been investing in educational technologies that have allowed dramatic changes in instruction and learning.
While K12 shares only some of these challenges—such as declining student populations and local and state-wide budget constraints—the silver lining is that K12 education enjoys access to exciting tools developed in response to the challenges facing higher education—ones that are tailored to K12 to prepare students for new models of learning upon graduation. A veritable explosion in educational technologies is changing K12 teaching and learning at a breakneck pace. Ten years ago, participation in virtual platforms was limited to teachers and students who were early adapters. Now, the learning curve is shorter, and teaching and learning take advantage of engaging interactive simulations, online games, online self-assessments, and virtual communication—all learning tools that provide immediate feedback to support student learning.
New educational technologies have the capacity to transform student learning across disciplines and grades. One such example is a virtual global campus called Virtual Intercultural Avenues—a concept that would not even have been possible just 10 years ago.
Developed with the support of a Rowland Foundation grant, VIA embeds cross-cultural experiences in the curriculums of budget-crunched schools, for students and their families who are trying to save for college and might therefore choose not to study or travel abroad while still in high school. Using platforms like Vimeo and Twitter (both launched in 2006), Google Classroom (2014), podcasts (2004), as well as Blogger, Skype, and Scopia, VIA is able to incorporate cultural competency in middle and high school curriculums, connecting students virtually without the accompanying financial burden of travel and study abroad.
While innovative, fresh, and exciting, new educational technologies give rise to new challenges. For example, given the exploding range of options for schools, the challenge is not the availability of technologies, but rather the assessment of alternatives.
Assessment methodologies of educational technologies for K12 schools are crucial, so that human and economic resources aren’t invested in the wrong products, wrong training, and wrong processes—which in turn deprive students of immediate opportunities. Teachers and school administrators need to be equipped with the skills and knowledge to assess educational technologies on an ongoing basis, guide their implementation, and measure their impact on student learning.
Barbella, D., Brandt, L., Fong, T., Jones III, D., Li, T.N., Yuman, S., Y., Jany, X., McDonald, B., and Xiao, A.J.,”Cultural Competence.” The New York Times in Education. New York Times, 2016. Web. 05 Jan. 2016. <http://nytimesineducation.com/spotlight/cultural-competence/>.
With the support of a 2012 Rowland Foundation grant, Essex High School teacher Jill Prado launched Virtual Intercultural Avenues in Vermont schools and abroad, linking schools internationally through new platforms embedded in a virtual global campus.
The VIA grassroots network includes middle schools and high schools in Belgium, France, Spain and Vermont.