Path Home Shows 2016 Show Archive September 2016 Show 1637 Education Revolution

Education Revolution

Digital technology has transformed the way students learn and the way teachers teach.
Education Revolution

Education Revolution

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Wesley Fryer

WSU - Global Campus

Show Details

Show 1637: Education Revolution
Air Date: September 11, 2016



Rob McClendon: Which led us to ask the following question: Exactly what are the demands of today’s classrooms? And here with some answers is our Blane Singletary.

Blane Singletary: Rob, the classroom of today is drastically different than the classroom you or your parents might be familiar with. Digital technology has transformed the way students learn and the way teachers teach.

Blane Singletary: It’s programming day at this STEM class at Independence Elementary School in Yukon.

Wesley Fryer: STEM class is science, technology, engineering and math, and it is a class designed to get kids really excited about doing learning using those different content areas.

Blane: Wesley Fryer is the teacher of this class and something of an advocate for STEM. And you can’t spell STEM without the T. Technology is taken seriously here as students’ lives become more and more digital.

Fryer: Well, technology is huge. I mean, we tend to look at technology today and say, “Wow! Look! Technology!” But it’s really the tool of our day. If we’re going to help students become full participants in the 21st century, they have to have access to those kinds of tools.

Blane: That means even outside of this programming project, they’ll be using computers and tablets to not only look up information, but also to share and publish their results. Fryer says that’s essential in this new blended learning reality where the physical classroom is merging with the online world. While that opens many doors for today’s students, it also creates new challenges.

Fryer: It’s an important thing that we didn’t have to do back in the day because the textbook was where we got that content. And today, especially as a teacher, I would be so constrained if the textbook was all that we had. But it challenges me as a teacher to find that credible content and then to help my students become critical thinkers about that content. And it leads to more conversations than just, “What is this?” It’s also, “Where did this come from?” “Who else is saying this?” “How do we know this is valid and true?”

Blane: This critical thinking plays a key role as classrooms like his move away from teaching to the test and favoring more project-based learning.

Fryer: It’s like show and tell. Show me what you know, and there’s a menu of media that you can use to do that.

Blane: We’re even beginning to see a menu of media students can choose from as far as how they attend class. When Fryer’s day is done at school, he goes home and teaches an online course through videoconferencing.

Fryer: I’ve been teaching graduate courses through the University of Montana, and I teach that over video from my house and online, so it’s a blended class.

Blane: His students, mostly teachers themselves, log in from all over the country for his course about using technology in the classroom. In a way, this online course works as a perfect example of what he’s talking about.

Fryer: All of us are overwhelmed and fearful, and the easiest thing for me to do, not as much with students but especially with adults, is to scare them and overwhelm them. So in doing a seven-part course, like the one we’re doing tonight, it really lets us bite small pieces at a time and lets the teachers create things and share them, and I just, I love that model.

Blane: And it’s not just teachers seeking a convenient means of professional development who are taking advantage of these online courses. We spoke to David Cillay, who manages Washington State University’s Global Campus. He says they treat their online courses like any others on campus.

David Cillay: It’s part of their job. They‘re teaching an online course. It’s not an overload, it’s not something extra, it's their job. And we work very hard to help faculty understand how to be effective in an online environment.

Blane: And that means the instructor’s job isn’t done once the course is published. They stay active and coach students through the content. This is important since more and more college hopefuls might be choosing this path in the future.

Cillay: You’re seeing a market open up for students that would have never set foot on a traditional campus, and now they have access to those programs. And in many ways I see the online education as complimentary to the on-campus, rather than competitive.

Blane: While it sounds great on paper, this shift towards digital learning is causing a lot of disruptions in the education field from the way we teach to the way we’re taught and even the way schools and students buy textbooks. But Cillay says it’s time for teachers and students young and old to ride this wave of change.

Cillay: Thinking about a different way of doing it is often times uncomfortable for someone who has done it one way for so long. But, you know, you think about society, and, you know, we bank online, we shop online, we date online. It seems to be just like a natural progression, and our students are pushing us in that direction. They’re expecting that convenience and that flexibility.

Blane: There’s still many questions left to answer about 21st century learning, but these teachers say it’s no different than what their students do on a daily basis. Again, Wesley Fryer

Fryer: That’s a lot of how we learn. As we try and see how it works, we get feedback, and we try again. It’s just an iterative process of learning, and as teachers we’re all learning, you know. If we’ve stopped learning, we’ve probably stopped teaching.

Rob McClendon: Now, when we return, we will meet a product of these new blended technology classrooms who is now flying high in a Navy jet.