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Going the Distance with Agricultural Education

 Perspectives​​: I’ll Take My Classroom with a side of Technology, Please

By Kimberly Miller, Ag Teacher and FFA Advisor,

 

 

Do you remember the first time you sat in front of a computer? Do you remember what kind of a computer it was and its “capabilities”? I do. The first computer I used was an Apple IIE in my first-ever computer course my sophomore year in high school. It was small, the words on the blank, black screen were green, and a small box flashed back at me eagerly awaiting my next command from the keyboard. I was fascinated with it but knew little about what it could do, what to do with it and how. I never imagined that in the not-so-distant future, I would depend on machines just like it for everyday tasks. I didn’t know it then, but I was working with the wave of the future.

Today, computers and related technologies are everywhere and help run pretty much every aspect of our lives. A person can run their entire personal and professional life using a computer. At my school, gone are the days of bubbling in roll and grade sheets with my trusty #2 pencil. Teachers are required to use their computers to take daily roll, maintain a grade book and communicate via email with fellow teachers, administrators, parents and even students.

Just as I was my sophomore year in high school, I continue to be fascinated with computers and related technologies and their capabilities. I create note sheets, lectures and PowerPoints using a computer and have a website that my students can access for a number of reasons--from date-of-event checking to permission slip downloading to test study help. I have created a number of technologically enhanced learning opportunities for my students; from video lectures that support material presented in class to recorded narrations of sample livestock judging reasons or officer lines to help students more efficiently prepare for judging and public speaking contests. At this point however, I should probably back up a bit and explain why, besides school requirements or personal fascination, computers and related technologies are important to an agriculture teacher and their students.

We have collided with the students of Generation NeXt who need constant entertainment and visual stimulation to stay alert to the task at hand. There are many who have studied this generation and the conclusion is this: Technology is the key to their success. Our students socialize via text messaging and e-mail. Social networking sites are their primary method of maintaining friendships and expressing their emotions to one another, and as foreign or frustrating as this all may sound, this is also how our students can learn. We can either shun or embrace this way of learning and living.

It is an essential part of educational success to embrace computer s and technology in and out of the classroom. I have had the distinct pleasure and opportunity to present seminars on specific computer applications and technology tools that can make the classroom and lessons exciting and fun, not only for students but teachers as well. How many times have you been bored with a lesson you’ve presented? If you’re bored with it, imagine how your students feel! It is actually very easy to change things up a little with some technology enhancements; your students will enjoy it and likely gain a better understanding of the topic, all because of improvements in your delivery method.

Computer technology is always changing and my advice is to change and grow with it. I am often asked how I find the time to create podcasts for my students to download or a virtual tour of a dairy farm to post on my website. The answer is as simple as it is complex: I make the time. Just as an agriculture teacher makes the time to practice with their livestock judging team after school, one must make the time to discover new technologies and use them in the classroom. The great thing is, once you are comfortable using a particular program or technology tool, continuing to create lessons or activities using technology becomes second nature. Dive in! You never know until you try.

Hum…is that an echo of “Learn by Doing” I hear?

Links to sample videos for student use:
Ceremonies_Practice
Market_Lamb_Reasons_Practice

Although it is always changing, the link to my student site at school is
KimMillerSite