By: Jone Tiffany
Technology touches every part of our lives, our communities, and our homes. Yet much of higher education lags behind when it comes to integrating technology into learning activities. Many colleges and universities are just beginning to explore its true potential for teaching and learning. Correctly used, technology can help nursing students acquire the skills needed to survive in a complex, highly technological, knowledge-based health care system.
The integration of technology into curricula, whether face-to-face or online, means more than teaching about basic computer skills and software programs. Effective integration of technology must happen across the curriculum, and must deepen and enhance the learning process. Effective technology integration is achieved when the use of technology is routine, transparent, and supports curricular goals. This type of integration has become common practice within the K-12 education system. Nursing programs in higher education, on the other hand, have not so readily embraced these changes.
New technologies are shaping how K-12 education takes place. Whether it is the use of Makerspaces to collaborate, the use of laptops and iPads to complete assignments, or the development and use of helpful apps to track homework, integration of technology is ubiquitous. As a result, students are starting to enter higher education more tech savvy than their instructors. In addition, they are used to moving around and learning through interactive strategies, not sitting and watching PowerPoints. What will be the tipping point? Are the pressures on higher education today powerful enough to fundamentally shift the learning experience? In what ways might today’s technological advances reshape higher education as we know it? Will any new system of higher education be better than the status quo?
In Reimagining the Role of Technology in Higher Education, the US Department of Education Office of Educational Technology reports that technology has a big role to play in creating a student-centered higher education system. The call to action points out that this will only be successful if the work is done differently than in the past:
“However, for any technology solution to have a transformative impact on student learning and success, it must have as its foundation the specific goals, needs, and interests of the students themselves. While technology can be added to existing structures with the goal of making them marginally more efficient and flexible, technology also offers the opportunity to catalyze more significant reforms to educational structures and practices (Higher-Ed-NETP, p. 9).”
The pace of change in health care has escalated, and nursing education programs must be nimble to keep up with the pace of the change. We are challenged to make learning more meaningful, contextual, and interactive to meet the needs of the increasingly wired generation of learners. If higher education does not keep up, will our students have the knowledge and adaptability needed to thrive in a health care environment that is ever-changing, diverse, interconnected, and global?
Technology changes the way children process information and it changes the way teachers teach. It offers educators effective ways to reach different types of learners and assess student understanding through multiple means. It also enhances the relationship between teacher and student. When technology is effectively integrated into subject areas, teachers grow into roles of adviser, content expert, and coach. If integrated with curricular objectives in mind, technology helps make teaching and learning more meaningful and fun.
Ultimately, technology is a tool that can be used to enhance the learning process. Well-prepared and trained nurse faculty can integrate technology into their courses to positively impact outcomes and prepare students for the transition to a highly technical, fast-paced practice environment. The train has left the station, and nursing education needs to get on board.