21st Century ICT Learning: Making it Work

Students hunch over their seats in rows, furiously copying notes, furtively glancing up as a teacher writes on a blackboard. The subject? Using secured digital resources to support collaboration in the workplace.

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Teaching Information Communications Technology (it is now ICT) in the 21st century comes with built-in challenges. Students arrive already digitally adept. The old “stand and deliver” lecture does not meet the high expectations of this audience. However, one of the core responsibilities of the instructor still pertains: to help students use their skills to grow and mature in understanding. How does a teacher effectively guide students with superior skills?

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Gigabit Internet Café, one of the fastest Internet connections in Britain. Copyright Lee Jordan/Flickr.

A second challenge reflects the dynamic nature of ICT content. How can instruction prepare students for careers that do not already exist? What “big ideas” and understandings are the ones that will survive the next wave of innovation? Are we still teaching VHS content in a world of Blu-Ray?

The Cisco Academy Support and Training Center works to provide answers to these challenges. This summer’s Instructor Institute offerings included “boot camps” for instructors to polish and expand their knowledge bases, and gain experience with industry certification tests. Since one measurement of an effective CTE program on the secondary level in Maryland is student achievement on certification tests, this experience is vital in giving instructors the ability to provide meaningful preparatory activities to their classes.

All new instructor training emphasizes instructional methodology and collaboration. Jason Kahler, one of our outstanding instructor trainers, manages an EdModo site giving instructors a place to share best practices, ask questions, and get support. Cisco Academy classes from St. Mary’s County, Anne Arundel County, and Baltimore City are participating in collaborative activities and both virtual and in-person “exchange visits”.

The Cisco Networking Academy curriculum grows and expands its offerings as new ideas emerge in the ICT field. Just in the last two years alone, new courses in The Internet of Everything, IT entrepreneurship, Linux, and cyber security have been added to the core Academy curriculum. Challenging activities such as an upcoming IoE “hackathon” give students the chance to showcase their skills by securing networks in a world of connected devices. Even the two-year-old core routing and switching content had a summer “refresh,” where some topics were offloaded into video and other formats for enrichment, expanded to reflect emerging ideas, and tweaked for relevance.

Final Thought

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Worker using mobile technology. Copyright Michael Coghlan/Flickr

Teaching ICT sometimes feels like running a race: students adopt new technologies faster than we can master them; sectors of the employment go “hot” and “cold” faster than we can provide students with the knowledge base to take advantage. The fundamentals of winning the game, however, have not changed: teach students how to learn for themselves and from each other, and provide a classroom environment where new ideas incubate and grow.

Nancy Null
Towson University is the Maryland State Department of Education Affiliate University for statewide IT Career Pathway programs. The Towson University Cisco Academy Support and Training Center provides resources to support existing and new Cisco Networking Academy programs throughout the state.