Magazine article The Catalyst

Successfully Integrating Technology

Magazine article The Catalyst

Successfully Integrating Technology

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Keeping pace with new technologies and integrating them into existing institutional structures is only one of many pressing problems facing community college leaders today. However, recent attempts to enhance learner-centered education through technology have resulted in successful holistic approaches. This Digest, redacted from a recent New Directions for Community Colleges issue edited by Kamala Anandam, documents the experiences of faculty, administrators, and staff at several colleges as they addressed a broad range of instructional technology issues.

FROM THE GROUND UP

Stephen C. Ehrmann (1998) views technology in higher education as being akin to a four-level tower in which each level is progressively more sophisticated than the one below it. The basement contains traditional technologies (textbooks, audiovisual materials) and the infrastructure for their use (libraries, labs, etc.). These basic elements support the four traditional pedagogies on the first floor: directed instruction (lecture hall and textbooks), learning by doing (laboratories, typewriters, libraries), real-time conversations (seminars, office hours), and time-delayed exchange (homework). The second floor houses enhancements to these practices that require students to use instructional technologies. Finally, the third floor represents large-scale structures supporting new educational concepts, campus-based education and distributed learning.

Moran and Payne (1998) suggest that successful integration of technology into community colleges hinges on the willingness of faculty to move beyond the basement and first-floor technologies with which they are most familiar and into the upper levels that incorporate information technology. The writers recount Kirkwood Community College's (Cedar Rapids, Iowa) successful Instructional Technology Teaching/Learning Initiative in which faculty led the integration of technology into the campus.

With improving student learning as their primary goal, faculty members were carefully trained in the use of a variety of hardware and software programs. The initiative resulted in greater faculty integration of technology into their planning, teaching, and student evaluation routines. Recent activities include formation of an institute for studying the impact of technology on literature and development of a software program that allows downloading of student grades from instructor records into the student record system.

Additionally, faculty from the developmental education department or faculty in other departments assist in designing technology-based and technology-enhanced curricula. Results of these initiatives include a sequence of courses designed for specific vocational and college preparatory areas. Moran and Payne (1998) make it clear that when faculty assume a leadership role in integrating instructional technology, rather than administrators dictating that implementation, innovations that enhance student learning are the result.

PLANNING FOR TECHNOLOGY

Community colleges now operate in an age of diminishing budgets and resources as well as demands to expand their missions. Ehrmann (1998) identifies five policy issues with which all community college leaders need to be concerned when investing in instructional technology. Taken together, these concerns require decision makers to examine the underlying values that will affect their choices for where to invest scarce institutional dollars in order to yield the best return.

Any successful attempt at integrating technology into existing institutional structures must begin with an evaluation of the current status of the college and a plan for improvement. Gellman-Danley and league (1998) offer a 10-step guide to integrating technology throughout the community college. Based on their own experience at Monroe Community College (New York) that saw technological consolidation throughout both the academic and administrative sectors, the authors articulate the steps required to form an institution able to serve faculty, staff, and students more effectively and efficiently. …

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