Technology is more than just a method of downtime; it has shaped the way students interact and process information. And its prevalence begs the question: is your website reflective of your students' wants and needs?
The Technology Debate
Heated arguments arise around the use of technology in the classroom, as traditional teachers have to instruct students immersed in a tech-heavy society. The Millennial generation was among the first to see their environment characterized by a constant flow of media.
Generation Y and Generation Z are now being labeled as "digital natives," for their proficiency in all things digital, while the current K-12 generations have adapted to the bombardment of media messages through text, social media, search engines, and other highly visual and instantaneous channels. This kind of non-stop exposure and utter saturation has impacted the way students interact with and use information.
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The Student Voice
Despite these current trends, students are often left out of the conversation of how to best engage them academically. What if the "digital natives" could create their own curriculum? What if they could hand pick the platforms through which they want to learn?
A 2012 study, "Students' Voices about Learning with Technology," by Ruth Greer of University of South Australia and Trudy-Ann Sweeney of Flinders University, analyzes how "students are rarely involved in the democratic decision making process." This study advocates for student voices to be taken into consideration in regards to which technology best supports their learning and what a contemporary learning environment should look like.
This study asked 347 students at a primary school in South Australia to draw a picture of things that helped them learn. The visual representation of learning tools and the accompanying comments were then analyzed to tap into the student perspective around what contemporary learning environments should look like.
The resultant data supported that Information and Communication Technologies (ICT):
- Better engage students because ICT utilize a variety of media to explain concepts and enhance student understanding
- Make it easier for students to work collaboratively on projects
- Make learning more enjoyable and visually stimulating
Tips and Tricks Backed by the Research
1. Harness the Power of Video
To the modern student student immersed in a simultaneous stream of moving pictures, sounds, and pop-ups, videos are a second-nature way of learning. Generation Y and Z students are less likely to spend the time sifting through content on a homepage. However, a drone video hovering over their future campus is just the image to capture their attention and engage their digital minds. Students aren't the only ones benefitting from video technology:
- Landing pages with video lead to 800% more conversion
- 80% of viewers recall a video ad they have seen in the past 30 days
- A one minute video is worth 1.8 million words
- A video is shared on social media 1200% more times than links and text combined
2. Bring Social into the Academic Sphere
Technology has shaped not only digital natives' learning environments, but also their social environments. Tap into their favorite ways to communicate with their peers. Feature social media mashups on your home page. Effectively employ a hashtag that interests them and that they can engage with. Speak their language with "Like us on Facebook," "Share our pep video," or "Connect with you professors on LinkedIn."
3. Appeal to Your Students' Voices
As you saw in the research, students know what works for them and what doesn't. They are highly tech-literate and media-literate individuals and they have corresponding information processing habits.
When in the website redesign process or when integrating new technology into the classroom, keep the student voice in mind. Conduct a survey to better understand the media that is interwoven into their daily lives. Create student focus groups or recruit a student intern to consult while you revamp your website.
Not only will you gain valuable insight from the digital native's perspective, but also students will gain professional exposure to the world of web redesign and cutting edge technology.