How to use technology to better prepare students for the workforce

Technology has become more prevalent in our daily lives as well as in the workforce. Recent studies predict that by 2010, nearly every job in the U.S. workplace will need to use technology. This flow of technology has caused changes in the way computers are used in the workplace and in the way computers are taught in our schools.

When the PC was first introduced in the 1980s, people had to learn how to operate it, program it, and use its basic functions. Today, individuals and companies are becoming more knowledgeable about technology and using it more as a tool for things such as collecting information, analyzing and interpreting data, providing information, solving problems, communication, etc. This technology is also constantly being updated and changed to allow for more efficient and productive work, which causes people to have to keep up with this new information. In such a knowledge-based economy, knowing how to quickly locate information, evaluate this information for bias and accuracy, synthesize this information and apply it to problem solving will be necessary and valuable skills. Therefore, teaching the skills of such students better prepares them for the workforce of the 21st century.

Simply providing students with technology in isolated computer classes will not teach students these necessary skills or how to use a computer as a tool. After all, the end result is not that students want to know simply how to operate computers but how to use them as a tool for organization, communication, problem solving and research.

Technology must be incorporated into the curriculum using active / inquiry-based learning. In this way, instead of showing students specific steps to pursue problem solving and then problem solving from a textbook, they are given a "real world" problem to solve and they must create their own strategies for data collection, analysis, assumption, and test solutions. By building their own strategies, they gain a deeper understanding of problem-solving skills. By solving real-world problems, students are better able to relate their learning to their own lives and similar future situations. Students often work in groups to solve their problems, which reinforces students. Personal skills and teamwork. They also learn to accept different points of view, work cooperatively, and express their opinions and feelings. After all, few jobs require people to work in total isolation; therefore, being able to work with others is an important aspect of society and the workplace.

Students must be given a number of technological resources to use in order to find a solution to their problem, such as Internet resources or search engines, communication / email with experts, books, software programs, spreadsheet programs, graphic programs, etc. Students may also be required to conduct hands-on experiences or participate in collaborative online research. However, instructions should be given on how to analyze the information for bias and accuracy. Students must realize that not everything on the Internet is true or correct. Since information is not presented to students in the form of a lecture only, it is required for critical thinking about, interacting with, analyzing and using in formulating a solution. This type of teaching enhances critical thinking and higher thinking skills and helps students demonstrate a deeper understanding of the content and concepts presented as well as the problem-solving process.

Students should also have choices in how they present their information and solutions. Formats such as PowerPoint can use presentations, posters, brochures, flyers, reports, web pages, and movies created with technology. Giving students a choice in final presentations not only allows them to display their talents and strengths, but also allows students to make their own decisions about the best way to present their data to others, which is often required in the workplace.

Integrating technology into the classroom using an active / inquiry-based method enhances the skills required for success in the 21st century. Students are required to use the computer as a tool for collecting information, analyzing data, and providing a solution to a specific problem. These are the skills that rich technology environments today emphasize and require. Therefore, using technology in this way will help students develop long life skills that can be transferred to the workforce.

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