Professors incorporate new teaching methods

Jackie McLean

Some education professors say teachers must think creatively to educate minds for the 21st Century workforce. With ever-evolving technology and a demand for multimedia skill sets, traditional teaching methods may need to undergo a technological about-face said Trish Koontz, a mathematics and science education professor.

“We are no longer one small community; we’re more of a global community,” Koontz said. “So teachers have to be able to rise to that occasion.”

Multi-media technology

For one English professor, the lack of understanding in multimedia and technology is a major problem in high school classrooms.

William Kist, an associate professor in the department of teaching, leadership and curriculum studies, said people need to be able to use a variety of technologies to be a literate person in the 21st Century.

“Many kids already are online outside of school, but I’m also concerned about all of the kids who are not online at all,” Kist said. “For them, school may be the only place where they get to practice communicating these new tools.”

Kist said a majority of Americans will have to use computers at work, and it will be an occupational necessity to be able to communicate with new media.

“I think it’s a myth that everybody born after 1985 or 1990 is going to be this techno-wizard, because they’re not,” Kist said.

Kist, who has been teaching at Kent State for nine years, is teaching a new course this semester called multi-modal literature in secondary classrooms. The course is designed to help future English teachers learn how to use new technology in their classrooms.

Kist’s students will learn how to use blogs, wikis, podcasts and Nings, a social networking tool, during the course.

Kist, who has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction from Kent State, recently wrote a book entitled “New Literacies in Action,” which profiles six teachers in North America who have used multimedia in their classrooms. Kist said these teachers have had success.

“For the most part, the students love it when they have a teacher who is trying to be forward thinking and allow for some creativity, and that’s what the teachers in my book do: They allow the students to experiment and try different things,” Kist said. “Sometimes they fall on their faces, but that’s part of learning.”

A hands-on approach

Science education professor Lisa Donnelly said a more hands-on approach where students collect and analyze data in order to answer questions about the natural world is a more effective way of teaching in the 21st Century.

Donnelly teaches her students how to engage their future classroom by using more laboratories and both large and small group discussions.

“An example of an inquiry lab that I just modeled with my students was one in which we examined the inheritance of kernel color in multi-colored corn cobs,” Donnelly said.

Donnelly said the idea of this lab is for the students to develop their own investigations to figure out what the offspring of parent corn plants will look like.

“Each group will present their findings, providing evidence and rationale for their decisions,” Donnelly said.

Donnelly said children need to be given opportunities to manipulate materials and develop and test scientific explanations. Teachers should pose questions to students and give them the opportunity to investigate evidence to come up with an answer.

“Inquiry teaching strategies have been researched in several contexts, and they have been found to be effective at improving students’ science content knowledge, their views of the processes of science and their attitudes toward science classes,” Donnelly said.

A combination of methods

For Koontz, being able to teach in a variety of different learning strategies is the most efficient way of engaging students.

“I have my own preference of learning,” Koontz said, “but to be a good teacher I have to go beyond their own preferred way of learning and learn the different strategies that different children use so that they’re reaching all children rather than just the children who learn like they do.”

Koontz said teachers should think about relevancy when teaching mathematics to young students by making the subject relatable to their lives.

Koontz, who has taught at Kent State for 30 years, said teachers could use classroom parties to teach their students about measurement. For example, the students could figure out how many liters of pop is needed or how many bags of cookies need to be bought to provide everyone with six cookies.

Koontz said a lot of the math textbooks need to be re-written in order for the math lessons to be more relevant.

“There is a new trend going on called quantitative literacy,” Koontz said. “Quantitative literacy is making more of the math (that) kids are going to be using very relevant to them so they are literate in making quantitative decisions.”

Contact College of Education, Health and Human Services reporter Jackie McLean at [email protected].