- Examine online learning in the context of organizing, communicating, reading, and researching online
Why is there such a powerful thrust behind technology in education? How significantly is technology contributing to our ability to be critical and creative thinkers? After all, technology, by itself, cannot create critical or creative thinkers. But when it’s used with the guidance of a teacher who understands how to use it, and by students who also have sufficient technology skills and resources, the teaching and learning process can be considerably enhanced. Consider the following:
- Computer software and Internet resources allow students to record, defend, and challenge their thinking.
- Digital camcorders allow students to observe and analyze the world—to re-see and reimagine it in a way that appeals to them.
- Interactive whiteboards are helpful for class discussions about ideas or Web content; they facilitate whole-class display and hands-on participation.
- Student-response systems, like clickers, allow students to respond to questions and then debate the answers.
- Blogs can serve as personal journals, where students can record, share, and reflect on field experiences and research activities. Students can also use blogs as a pre-established environment for critically responding to assigned readings.
- Wikis can help students coordinate, compile, synthesize, and present individual or group projects or research, as well as build and share group resources and knowledge. Wikis can also help students provide peer review, feedback, and critiques.
- Discussion boards can help students establish a sense of community with their class and engage in ongoing threaded conversations on assigned readings and topics highlighting diverse points of view.
The following graphic illustrates how different digital technologies can help faculty and students with critical and creative thinking. Notice the six main categories in the graphic. They correspond with Bloom’s taxonomy, discussed in the section on Patterns of Thought.
The red and blue arrows outside the diagram indicate the fluidity with which the tools can travel through the different levels in the taxonomy. All in all, the diagram, below, shows the interconnectedness of technology resources in helping users increase their critical and creative thinking skills.
If you are thinking about taking an online course or even a blended or hybrid-format course, you already know that it will require some basic technological skills. And while you don’t necessarily need to be a computer scientist to take a class that involves a lot of online work, you should have a solid understanding of the basic technical skills needed to succeed. Understanding what these skills are up front will make things much easier for you as a student.
The Getting Tech-Ready tutorial, below, is from the California Community College system. It is specially designed to help California’s online community college students, but it is widely applicable to college students taking technology-enhanced courses anywhere. It will help you becoming familiar with the following:
- the hardware and software requirements of most online and hybrid courses
- the value of a fast Internet connection
- how to locate and download the free plugins that your course might require
- the basics of email
- how to obtain tech support when you need it
NOTE: You will find additional tutorials, below, from the OEI Online Learner Readiness project. All are geared to help students develop skills required to be successful online learners. Remember that even though you may be a savvy smartphone, tablet, and/or computer user, you may not be prepared for the particular challenge of college-level learning in the online environment. The tutorials below are engaging and interactive, and are designed to address the real challenges that both experienced and novice online students may encounter.