Educating for a globally diverse, changing world

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[autop] It’s Friday afternoon in professor Stephen Howell’s Biology 212 class. The lecture hall is abuzz with young students – mostly freshmen – chatting with each other in small groups.

They’re not socializing. They’re communicating. [/autop]

    Rob Hanson has spent six months in Spain (completing two study abroad programs in Valencia and Cáceres) and a summer in Aachen, Germany.

[autop] With heads together and pencils scratching paper, they’re collaborating on a “Think:Pair:Share” problem Howell has proposed. It’s a fun way to flex their academic muscles, but it serves another purpose, too.

It teaches basic life skills that are crucial for working in a diverse, changing world. It’s one of many ways the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Iowa State University is coaching students to be critical thinkers, fluid communicators, and scientifically and culturally literate individuals.

Because the times, well, they are a-changin’.

“Anything you can do to encourage communication will prepare students to operate in a global workplace,” said Howell, a professor of genetics, devel- opment and cell biology. “We’re empha- sizing student-centered learning, which leads to learning interaction, which is crucial for entering the workforce.”

In today’s super-connected world, it’s more important than ever for a student to graduate with an understanding of how technology and human interaction go hand-in-hand. One of the college’s five Signature Themes, “Global Citizens, Education and Technology,” addresses this challenge by researching the rela- tionship between learning, technology and the human experience. [/autop]

Collaboration with many cultures

[autop] “There once was a time when it was the norm for researchers to hole themselves up in their labs and work alone,” said Craig Ogilvie, professor of physics and astronomy and assistant dean in the Graduate College. “We can’t do that anymore. Today, most research is collaborative, so you have to know how to work with others – from all different backgrounds and cultures.”

Campus’ newest building, Troxel Hall, is a shining example of how technology and human interaction can be integrated to enhance a student’s learning experience. The 400-seat auditorium – named for LAS alumnus Doug- las D. Troxel who provided the lead gift for the building – features state-of-the-art technology and comfy features, such as swiveling desks, that promote group work.

“We are asking our students to function like budding scientists out in the field,” Beate Schmittmann, LAS dean, said about integrating collaboration into lectures and labs. “It makes for a more engaged student, and teaches them to work in a setting different from what they are used to.” [/autop]

Teaching ISU students social technology

[autop] Breaking news: Students love technology. A glimpse into any classroom, where screens glow on every desk, demonstrates that love.

By refocusing their interest in technology from what they’re using to how they’re using it, the student learns to use technologyas a form of global communication.

This is what Volker Hegelheimer, professor of English and coordinator for the Program in Applied Linguistics and Technology, teaches every day.

“Learning technology is part of being a global citizen,” he said. “It’s not just knowing technology for the sake of knowing technology, it’s knowing how to use it to our benefit.”

Hegelheimer, who has been teaching at Iowa State since 1998, said he’s seen a shift in how he teaches language through technology in the past 15 years. Where he was once the only expert in the room, now technology is so accessible that his students often know about the latest app before he does.

“Now, we learn how those apps affect language learning so students can someday teach it themselves or further their research after graduating,” he said. “We don’t believe that technology will ever replace teaching, but technology-using teachers will replace those who don’t use technology. So we teach our students – future language teachers and researchers – how to engage language learners meaningfully through technology.”

The Department of Mathematics has incorporated technology into its initial placement process for incoming students with the ALEKS mathematics placement assessment. The online assessment determines what math classes the student should be placed in. Its goal is to get students into the right classes so they aren’t overwhelmed or bored.

The assessment has an indirect impact on a student’s potential global impact.

“Will our students be able to compete in a global market?” Elgin Johnston, professor of mathematics, asks. “Corporations can hire anyone from any country. We need to ensure that the students who want to pursue a STEM field (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) are correctly placed in classes so they can succeed." [/autop]

Participating in global responsibility

[autop] How students will handle the global workplace upon graduating is not only determined by their education, but how they apply it.

“We ask, ‘If we sent a student to France tomorrow, what do they need to know to be a professional?’” Chad Gasta, associate professor and chair for the Department of World Languages and Cultures (WLC), said. “It boils down to an understanding of contemporary culture in a country other than your own.”

Arne Hallam, associate dean in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said this starts with participation at home, particularly through service learning derived from being active in student clubs and classroom projects, where students can make an impact on their own communities.

“The world is all tied together. The issues we address here have an impact on those same issues across the globe,” Hallam said. “You do these local service learning projects and in the long run they can become international efforts,” he said. [/autop]

Stepping into a global workplace

[autop] Rob Hanson, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering and Spanish, knew he needed global experiences before graduation to help propel his career.

During his four years at Iowa State, he has spent six months in Spain (completing two study abroad programs in Valencia and Cáceres) and a summer in Aachen, Germany.

“I’ve gained so much from my experiences abroad. Language, culture, learning – of course – but also how to be a global citizen. You can’t fully appreciate how much the world has an impact on you and your career until you’ve experienced it from another perspective,” he said.

No matter where a student lands a job, upon graduating they are a part of the global landscape. What they do will have an impact on people all over the world, and LAS is committed to ensuring students are prepared for this responsibility.

“Employers tell us they want to hire graduates with a sense of the world,” said Nancy Guthrie, director of LAS Study Abroad. “It takes a special set of skills to operate in a culture you are unfamiliar with, so employers see great value in those who have taken advantage of study abroad opportunities.”

Kelly Sebetka, who graduated in August with degrees in English and international studies, said her study abroad experiences were vital to landing her first gig after graduation: a year of service with AmeriCorps in Philadelphia.

Gasta said one of the ways WLC has modified its curriculum to meet the new demands of today’s global market has been by teaching more applied language, which they are able to do through the Languages and Cultures for Professions (LCP) secondary major. “Students see the need for having a global perspective when they graduate,” he said. “We know that’s what employers want, too.”

Diversity is everywhere. Technology is, too. The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences will continue to help students thrive and succeed in a changing world by adapting new approaches to education.

“Many of our graduates will be leaders on both national and international levels,” Schmittmann said. “Our college will help them get there by consistently evaluating how our teaching can best prepare them for success beyond the boundaries of the United States.” [/autop]

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Iowa State University
Contacts: Jess Guess, LAS Communications, (515) 290-9906,