Communicating Across Boundaries

Communicating Across Boundaries

Dennis Harper
Copyright: © 2009 |Pages: 2
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-198-8.ch049
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Directing a Technology Innovation Challenge Grant as well as a Preparing Tomorrow’s Teachers to Use Technology (PT3) Project, plus 35 years of experience in student and teacher education has led me to conclude that teachers need know-how in communicating across boundaries. These boundaries can be found, for example, between teachers and students, teachers and the administration, teachers and parents, and teachers and the political system. The three most important competencies necessary to achieve communication “across boundaries” are: 1) using modern technologies to communicate, 2) the ability to learn from students, and 3) the ability to become agents of change.
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Millennium Skill 1

The Ability to Effectively and Efficiently Use Online Communications

The millennium teacher must be able to communicate with all of education’s stakeholders in effective and efficient ways. This includes using e-mail, fax machines, cell phones, instant messaging, video conferencing, listservs, bulletin boards, forums, chat groups, Web page postings, and any other present and future technology that will benefit the teacher’s communication abilities.

Not only do millennium teachers have to know how to technically utilize these tools, they need to know how these tools can be used to make their jobs more efficient. File management, use of templates, use of electronic address books and lists/calendars, and controlling spam are some of the skills necessary to save their time and facilitate better communication.

The millennium teacher also needs to know how to teach students to communicate well, especially on the Internet. Just knowing how to use these electronic tools, however, does not guarantee that students will communicate well. The majority of communication currently taking place on Internet forums, chat groups, e-mail, and instant messaging is being done by Generation Y (present K-12 students). Yet, schools and teachers seldom address how these students can improve the quality of their online communication. Places on the Internet where students “hang out” often are places for trite, hateful, pornographic, and/or foul language. There is little in the way of substantial discussion, and certainly not much that a teacher would accept to fulfill a school assignment.

Teachers, other educators, and politicians must share the blame with students for the lack of substance found in online communication. Online communication skills are seldom addressed by teachers and are not part of any standardized curriculum or assessment. Most adults do not recognize that students are now, or will be in the future, spending much more time on the Internet than with books or handwritten communication. Even with 1.3 billion people and 7 billion Web sites on the Internet, schools and teachers often do not recognize this as an important millennium skill. Usually, only lip service is given to learning and teaching these skills.


Millennium Skill 2

The Ability to Learn From, and With, Students

For the first time in history, K-12 students have more knowledge about a subject that is a central focus of our society than their teachers. That subject is technology. Increasingly, teachers will have to learn from, and with, their students. When teachers and students learn together, better learning occurs. Not only do students and their teachers get to know each other better, a sense of trust develops that allows for the achievement of every learning goal.

Too often, teacher preparation in the use and integration of technology involves learning technology skills. What really needs to be learned is how to tap into student strengths with technology in order to improve the learning process through the use of technology. There is too much emphasis in professional development, for example, placed on teachers having to know more than their students; this is wrong. The millennium skill of learning from, and with students, is critical if we truly want to prepare our students to voice their own thoughts, face challenges successfully, and learn according to their own needs.

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