by Greg Cunningham, JFYNetWorks Blended Learning Specialist
Online Education can be daunting even for digital natives
Everyone over 30—or is it now 20? — assumes that young people are completely tech savvy. They walk the streets and hallways with their faces plastered to their phones, texting, posting, broadcasting live video from concerts or from lunch, always up on the newest apps to keep constantly enmeshed in their social webs.
But social media tech savvy does not necessarily make the transition into the classroom, especially the college classroom. More and more college courses now require students to navigate online apps and web sites to complete required course work. Whether a college uses Blackboard, Canvas, TurnItIn.com, MyMathLab or numerous other online platforms, virtually every student is going to have to complete some coursework online.
Even virtuosos at manipulating their phones may find it daunting to navigate the deeper seas of online education. A student who struggles with math may feel heightened anxiety at being required to complete math homework online. And it may be a surprise when a software program refuses to recognize .5 as equivalent to ½. Even though both forms are correct, the program may recognize only one. That degree of syntactical precision can come as a shock to the casual tweeter.
Some teachers are taking note. Marisa Smith, a math teacher at North Quincy High School, uses the JFYNet Accuplacer Prep platform not just to improve math skills but to help her students develop digital proficiency and get comfortable online.
Her strategy is working. At the beginning of the year, only 40% of her seniors said they were comfortable using software for math assignments. This seems like a low number in an age when technology permeates every aspect of a young person’s life. But, as noted above, thumbing a tweet is different from working through a math assignment that determines a final grade.
After using the JFYNet online math curriculum, 89% of Marisa’s students said they were very comfortable or reasonably comfortable working online. As she intended, once students were exposed and had a chance to practice online, they became more confident in their digital skills as well as their math skills. As technology penetrates and permeates K12 and college classrooms– especially with MCAS 2.0 going online– students will need intensive exposure to online platforms to develop proficiency. Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook will not prepare them for online algebra and reading comprehension, much less chemistry and physics. Students at every grade level will need time and practice to master online learning. As Marisa Smith is demonstrating, the time to start is now.