Instructors showcase emerging classroom technology with 'early adopters' from across Manitoba

RRC's Jon Ferber (centre), showcases drone technologyWhiteboards and overhead projectors are some of the things that come to mind when the average person imagines a classroom — but that image is quickly changing. Today, educators from across Manitoba are at Red River College learning how they can incorporate new and emerging technologies — including drones, video games and virtual reality — in their classrooms.

“These are the early adopters,” says Dr. Eva Brown, Emerging Technology instructor for RRC’s Teacher Education department. “Our goal with this [workshop] is twofold: to prepare educators for the expectations and learning styles of their students, and to show how educators can prepare learners for what is in front of them.”

“Today’s learners are more familiar with technology than a pen and paper. Their pen and paper is a tablet or a computer. We need to embrace technology as a mechanism for engagement and 21st century learning.”

The workshop was developed by Brown and fellow instructor Daryl McRae — along with new media technician Jonathan Ferber, from the College’s eTV Learning Technologies media lab — in partnership with the Manitoba Association of Computer Educators, as part of a year-long project supported by RRC’s Program Innovation Fund.

Focusing on emerging drone technology, the team members have been researching feasibility, interest, regulations and legalities — while also becoming certified drone pilots themselves — to assist in the development of drone-based curriculum at the College.

Rounding out the roster are RRC media technicians Murray Toews and Dylan Smitzniuk, who’ll lead the virtual reality and games components of today’s workshop.

“Evolving education is about sharing knowledge,” says Norm Gould, President of the Manitoba Teacher's Society. “Today, teachers are attending different workshops across the province to learn new skills and will share that knowledge in their classrooms, at their schools and across their divisions.

“The fact is that most students in the K-12 system have grown up with technology in their hands. It's important for us as educators to understand technology and adapt it to our lessons to meet the needs of our students.”

Today’s sessions will also encourage educators to learn about safety requirements and restrictions for emerging technologies. Drones, in particular, have strict regulations relating to safety and privacy.

Brown says the RRC project team based its research on the New Media Consortium Horizon Report (Higher Education Edition), which forecasts the emerging technologies that will be integrated into learning within the three years. According to the 2017 report, drones are a technology that should be on the radar of educators across the world.

Some of the uses for drones already being implemented at other institutions include aerial video projects (Swarthmore College, USA), using drones in the repair and maintenance of infrastructure (University of Leeds, Ireland) and for engineering students to measure a variety of indicators such as humidity, temperature and barometric pressure (University of Chihuahua, Mexico).

Red River College recently approved the purchase of a drone for educational use; it’ll be reserved for training purposes before instructors begin implementing it into their learning.