With innovative technologies now being infused in all facets of college and university curricula, academic leaders are beginning to rethink assessments, reconsider data analysis, and fine-tune contemporary job descriptions on college and university campuses. What kind of data should school leaders request? Which new technologies should be approved? How are standard job descriptions changing? Here are five emerging trends for academic leaders to consider.

1. “New” Data Sources 

Au courant administrators may now utilize “new” data sources to measure department success. For instance, “data-driven instruction” may have been a buzzword for quite some time, but has the concept become buzzkill? We are now witnessing marked changes in our methods of collecting, analyzing, and utilizing data to make informed decisions (Barnes & Gonzalez, 2015). Data obtained in real-time from advanced apps, for example, may be readily stored in secure, online formats, such as the 360 Spreadsheet (Barnes & Gonzalez, 2015). Utilizing new technologies creates modern methods for college and university instructors to fine-tune instruction, measure classroom progress, and, for deans and department chairs, to demonstrate innovation and academic leadership.

2. Depth of Content 

Clearly, new technologies enable college and university instructors to delve deeper into content. For example, classroom instructors can now find relevant facts and pull up pertinent images that enable students to decipher rigorous academic text with greater ease. According to Apodaca (2013), new technologies are generally cost-effective and, once implemented, may be upgraded readily. Academic leaders may also want to consider how new technologies will motivate students to study online, visit relevant sites more regularly, and increase online communication and interaction (Pew & Van Hemel, 2004, p. 220).

3. App Innovation

Academic leaders may want to consider the present explosion in app innovation, particularly as it relates to higher education. As a result, college and university instructors can more readily decipher students’ interests and tap directly into academic passions (Becker, 2014). One relatively new app, MIT App Inventor, enables students to create apps vis a vis an instructor as facilitator rather than lecturer. The app offers students an intensive training course and a “Verizon Innovative Learning App Challenge” (with monetary prizes!), and instructors a forum to collaborate and additional, hands-on support to enhance student comprehension (Becker, 2014). This demonstrates that instructors can utilize new apps to enhance content and make learning more tangible for students in the classroom, as well as promote app usage to enhance scientific thinking, engender collaboration, and foster creativity.

Remember how frustrating and expensive it once was to utilize a graphic calculator? The tool is now gratis online via Free Graphing Calculator (iOS) or Graphing Calculator by MathLab (Android) (Shaffer, 2015). Students can also use MathRef (Android/ iOS) to decipher complex mathematical formulas, Wolfram Alpha (Android, iOS) to figure out formulas and fathom palpable solutions, or Equations All-in-One (iOS) to solve scientific riddles; the app also “includes a unit converter with capability to convert all major units for physics and chemistry” (Shaffer, 2015).

We are also witnessing an explosion in education-related games to enhance students’ comprehension in English and literacy, as well as help explain rigorous science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)-related concepts via educational game-like applications. If you’re hungry to satisfy your students’ appetite for knowledge, consider serving new apps such as “Mathalicious” or “Get the Math,” which offers “videos, web interaction, and real-world scenarios [to provide] real-life examples of math-in-action” (Becker, 2014). With the advent of creativity combined with affordability, expect to see an increase in new educational apps that enhance learning via game-like features.

As students become more comfortable playing a variety of online learning games, educators can use new apps to enhance learning in skill-specific areas. Consequently, academic leaders may want to consider infusing new apps into department curricula to elucidate content and promote rigorous academic language, enhance conversational discourse, and develop creative thinking skills.

4. Digital Literacy 

Digital literacy is having the capacity to utilize technology to decipher pertinent information, coalesce in novel online formats, “produce and share original content, and use the Internet and technology tools to achieve…academic, professional, and personal goals” (NYC DOE, 2016). Creating a digital literacy curriculum may seem challenging, but with increasing numbers of instructors opting to infuse technology into their lessons, some schools are adopting formal digital literacy curriculum and digital literacy plans.  Google provides ample resources to teach about digital literacy and digital citizenship, which includes YouTube videos, educator guides, and lesson plans (Crowley, 2014). Creating a digital literacy curriculum highlights essential skills students need to master and aids in fine-tuning scope and sequence (Crowley, 2014).

5. Library Media Specialists (LMS) 

Who would have thought libraries would become trendy quarters for students to not only conduct serious research, but also to consort, mix, and socialize at all times? With the advent of new technologies and design spaces, some libraries have turned into experimental hubs for technology integration. College and university libraries may also offer myriad services which require some knowledge of technology and how to access the Internet, so job descriptions and key responsibilities have greatly evolved.

Today, “Library Media Specialists” must remain at the forefront of new technologies, research methods, and integrating digital formats into student work. At some colleges and universities, Library Media Specialists help to establish technology policies and are responsible for budget oversight; in addition, they help to derive “the physical and virtual library space, and create a welcoming, positive, and innovative atmosphere” (ITWorx, 2016). Academic leaders would thus be wise to tap into Library Media Specialists’ resourcefulness in prioritizing budgets, knowledge of curricula to create engaging learning experiences for students, and ability to enhance campus-wide classroom tools and utilize multimedia resources effectively (Weil, 2016).

This article first appeared in Academic Leader on August 25, 2017 © Magna Publications. All rights reserved.

For nearly two decades, Scott Freiberger has worked as an educator, school-wide instructional mentor, and teacher trainer. He has earned a Master’s in Pacific International Affairs from the University of California, San Diego, a Master’s in TESOL from the University of Central Florida, and is completing his third master’s degree in School Leadership at the Touro College Graduate School of Education in New York. 


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