Preparing for the future

Technology is changing so rapidly that it can be mind boggling. Since the year 2000, broadband Internet connections, search engines, smart phones, social media, cloud computing, Internet telephone calls, flash drives, digital sound, photography and video have all begun to change the way people interact.

Technology in the classroom is also changing. Smart boards are replacing chalkboards and white boards. They interface with the instructor's computer, through a projector, displaying images on the board. They have touch technology so images can be moved with a flick of the finger, and multiple people can use the data on the board at the same time.

Electronic clickers, somewhat like a television remote control, are becoming popular in classrooms. They allow students to instantly respond to questions from the instructor, then the software records and compiles the answers.

The clicker technology makes it possible for instructors to see how well the students are absorbing the information. It also allows the students to assess their comprehension with instant feedback on how well they answered the questions.

Document cameras have replaced overhead projectors, displaying not only diagrams and printed materials, but three dimensional objects as well, so students can observe a dissection or other hands-on demonstration from their desks on a big screen.

Although the college cannot provide this type of technology in every classroom, we recognize the need to provide students with as much hands-on experience with current technology as possible. It is equally important to give both our faculty and students exposure to emerging technologies, so students are knowledgeable when they enter the workforce.

To make that possible, MCC is creating, on each campus, a Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT). The CELT includes one highly equipped classroom and an adjacent faculty collaboration room where faculty can work together, and with information technology personnel, explore ways to enhance the learning and teaching experience for everyone through technology.

In support of this, and all technology at the college, the IT department has been migrating data and servers to an offsite facility equipped with redundant power and automatic backup systems to help assure that the MCC network is always accessible to students, faculty and staff; and that electronic records are even more secure.

To enhance the speed and accessibility of information about the college, MCC's website has been completely rebuilt, with improved navigation, streamlined copy, new search capabilities and, now, a new electronic college catalog that is interactive, interlinked and easily accessible.

Although keeping up with technology changes is challenging, it is simply not an option for educational institutions today.

What does the future look like? FutureTimeline.net offers the following projections for 2020 (less than nine years away): texting by thinking, holographic TV will be mainstream and there are five billion Internet users. Digitalelectronic.org foresees a Sony computer that you wear on your wrist, replacing your smart phone. You then fold it out onto your desk or conference table where virtual keyboards and touch screens give you full computer capabilities.

We are at the start of an explosion in electronic technology; and those who fail to embrace it early will find it difficult to catch up. MCC is working hard to see that does not happen to students here.

Michael Kearns is the president of Mohave Community College, which serves the people of Mohave County and surrounding communities from four campuses and through distance education. You can send questions for him by e-mail to: mkearns@mohave.edu or by mail to: 1971 Jagerson Ave., Kingman, AZ 86409.