My memories about taking classes when I was younger are always the same: The teacher explaining something to us, or reading to us from a book while we took notes. That was the traditional way of teaching back in the 80’s – 90’s. The students only received information and the teacher’s role was only to give information. This role has been changing through the years. New generations are demanding from us more information with speediness and in an innovative way. More and more schools across United States and around the world are using emerging technologies in education, and their use has improved students’ overall learning experience.
I started to teach undergraduate students back in 2002, and it still is very stimulating for me to try to find new ways to engage the students who only seem to be interested in “texting” or watching Youtube. My philosophy is “Learn by doing”, that is why I always try use practical activities and lessons so they can create and understand their own concepts. I explain something and then I say “Now is your turn!” I always try to reflect with them the importance of the new knowledge and how this new knowledge is going to serve them in the future. Students want to know why is important to learn History, or Math or Physics, or Art. I encourage critical thinking using problem-solving strategies. I always promote collaboration by working in groups to learn the importance of social negotiation and to build new knowledge through social constructivism. I think collaboration is an important and essential aspect of education, but I am also an advocate for individual development.
Students have to be aware of the importance of the time and effort they put in their studies. It is our job as teachers to help them to discover and to embrace this responsibility, and to help them to learn and to apply that knowledge inside and outside the classroom. It is also our responsibility to develop a climate in which students encompass institutional policies and practices; a climate that encourages respect and tolerance, and embraces multicultural education, as a way to understand and to learn from new ideas, ways of thinking, and traditions. It is also our job to help them discover the wonderful world of research. They have the right to question things, but with that right there is a responsibility involved: they have to be capable to answer these questions. Through research students can reach new educational levels and discover new possibilities of professional development.
We have a new advantage that the teachers back in the 80’s – 90’s lacked: Technological applications for education. Now is common to use virtual environments, audio, podcasts, internet resources, online quests and scavenger hunts, videos, forums, as exceptional technological tools to help us deliver the content of our classes. Now a teacher can show how an eclipse is produced through a video. Another teacher can use a virtual environment to show the students how the Sistine Chapel is decorated without leaving the classroom. The possibilities to improve the educational experience using technology are infinite.