Education - Page 4 - High-tech Innovation in Graduate Programs

- Page 4
High-tech Innovation in Graduate Programs
From education to GIS, graduate programs embrace technology

By Gregory J. Alexander, Contributing writer

Students in grade school, middle school and high school today have grown up only knowing a world where technology is a part of everyday life. Elementary school kids know how to operate an iPhone better than their parents and grandparents, and the concept of watching live television with commercials is a foreign concept. Recognizing this reality, Notre Dame of Maryland University places a significant emphasis on technology when preparing its school of education students to be the best teachers they can be.

All education students at Notre Dame – undergraduates and graduate level students – take a technology course, says Sister Sharon Slear, Ph.D., dean of the school of education at Notre Dame. “Most students take a second technology course or seminar for the latest applications and strategies to enhance their student teaching experience,”
Slear says. Slear says that when Notre Dame students are doing their student teaching work in schools, “their mentor teachers see the benefits of utilizing technology in the classroom. The teachers also are exposed to the latest in technology to enhance learning.”

“Technology is incorporated in all my education classes,” says Ariel Palmisano, an education student at Notre Dame. For example, she worked on a game-based program with “total student response.” “Every student is required to answer, which provides great feedback and increases student engagement,” Palmisano says. She also engaged her students in website work to develop critical thinking skills.

While explaining the benefits of technology in the classroom, Slear stresses, “Technology does not replace good teaching. Also, we have to be careful that the use of
technology does not restrict socialization and limit creativity,” she says. “Technology is not a digital babysitter. Technology should only be used to enhance learning,” Palmisano adds. Palmisano, who aims to teach at the elementary school level with students with special needs, sees an added benefit to technology. “Technology levels the playing field. A special needs student can have the same experience as any other student,” she says.

Information technology is, not surprising, constantly changing, so for working professionals in the field to not only stay current but also advance in their field, Stevenson University offers a master’s in business and technology management that is offered completely online.

Steven Engorn, coordinator for the master’s program, explains that each course is eight weeks long and can be completed in one year if the student is transferring in some graduate level credits. Engorn adds that the program is not self-paced; there is work to be completed each week. And although students are located outside of Maryland, Engorn utilizes BlueJeans video conferencing software that allows students to interact with their classmates and faculty to increase student engagement.

Engorn says that Stevenson’s program is unique in that two tracks are offered – emerging technology and innovative leadership. “Students take five core courses, five courses in their chosen track and two capstone courses. Students in the innovative leadership track, for example, can take courses from the emerging technology track if it will benefit their workplace. For example, a innovative leadership student may need a course in disaster recovery,” he says.

Engorn explains that students in the emerging technology track focus on such areas as evaluating technologies available in their organization, software solutions, assessing vulnerabilities and security strategies. The innovative leadership track is focused on those students who want to become a chief information officer at their company. The importance of information technology in the success of the organization, supply chain management strategies and current customer relations management practices are just a few areas of emphasis in the leadership track.

“In the capstone courses, students build an actual corporate technological infrastructure and choose a technology that they would like to learn, such as how to develop a smartphone app. The work done in the capstone courses can be directly applied to their workplace,” Engorn says.

Drawing students from as far away as California and Utah (and open to international students, too), Salisbury University’s master of science in geographic information systems management was the first master’s program of its kind when it launched in 2007, and today is the only fully online program in the United States focusing on public GIS administration. Program Director Stuart Hamilton, Ph.D., knows first hand why a master’s program focusing on GIS management is needed.

“Years ago, I launched a consulting business and quickly learned that I did not have the leadership and project management skills to run a business or manage people,” he recalls. Hence, Salisbury’s program combines the enhanced technical skills not gained in an undergraduate GIS program with leadership and management skills similar to what one may find in a MBA program. “Students learn, for example, how to manage GIS projects and databases, or a professional working for an engineering firm learns how to properly manage a $5 million water sewer program,” Hamilton says. “Our ideal student is one who has been promoted and realizes he or she does not have the necessary managerial skills.”

Hamilton says that the majority of students in the program are public sector professionals, so more classes in public policy and public administration have been added over the years. Students who complete the master’s program achieve the necessary education credits for certification as a Geographic Information Systems Professional (GISP).

GIS is one of the fastest growing fields (see sidebar) and Hamilton says the program continues to grow. “It’s very successful…we are reaching a point where we will be at full capacity,” he says. •

Looking for an in-demand career?

GIS is one of the fastest growing career paths in the red-hot technology industry. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the geospatial technology industry, within the architectural and engineering occupations group, as one of the top 10 fastest growing careers between 2002 and 2012, according to Salisbury University. The demand for GIS professionals in the public sector is especially high, and with the hundreds of federal, state and local government entities in the region, GIS graduates will have plenty of options when looking for a job. •