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Expert touts new ways to teach
Community series continues Wednesday
Lecture 1
North Georgia College & State University professor Barbara Dixon speaks Wednesday at Hampton Park library. - photo by Alyssa LaRenzie

What’s next

The final North Georgia Community Connections lecture will explore the topic of “Childhood Obesity.”
* When: 6:30 p.m. Wednesday
* Where: Hampton Park library, 5345 Settingdown Rd.

Barbara Dixon displayed a black and white photo of a classroom from more than 50 years ago in which all the children sat still at their desks.

“The sign of a good classroom at that time was a teacher who kept their students quiet,” she said.

Though kids are still kids, the way they learn has fundamentally changed since then, the North Georgia College & State University professor said.

Students can listen to iPods, text on their phones and play a game all at the same time.

“They can make multiple connections in seconds,” she said. “They are also used to being submerged in information.”

The coordinator of alternative certification at NGCSU presented some new ways to engage modern students during a lecture entitled “Preparing Teachers for 21st Century Students.”

With the ability of children to multitask, she said, the success of modern classrooms won’t be based on how quiet they are, but more likely the opposite.

The Wednesday night talk was the sixth of seven in the North Georgia Community Connections series being put on by the college, which take place at the Hampton Park library in Forsyth County.

Dixon emphasized the importance of getting students involved in what they’re learning by using what she called the three Rs: rigor, relevance and relationships.

Rigor is about the quality of a lesson. For example, she said, asking how much carpet is needed to cover this floor instead of just asking a simple multiplication fact.

Students will pay attention and connect with facts that are relevant to their own lives, she said.

“If they cannot make meaning from it, they are not going to think its important,” Dixon said. “They’re going to shut down on us.”

Rigor without relevance, she said, will create success in school but often failure in the real world because former students can’t connect their teachings to their lives.

Students also need to form relationships to ensure school success, she said.

Dixon said many already have two of three important components — parents and other students — but teachers must also make that connection.

“Students don’t care how much their teachers know until they know how much their teachers care,” Dixon said.

Getting students involved in education comes in many forms, and teachers need to play the top role in getting them engaged by nurturing critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity skills.

The knowledge of a teacher is less important than his or her skill at teaching, Dixon said.

“It’s not going to do you any good to have someone who’s that smart if they can’t pass that to you,” she said.

She also noted the importance of using technology in the classroom, since the students are using it at home and likely will be in future careers.

To demonstrate a practical use, Dixon used online phone service Skype to call another NGCSU professor and communicate face-to-face on their computer screens.

Some students even attend NGCSU classes from other states using the technology, she said.

The presentation gave Debbie Paulding an idea of how to enhance one of her classroom activities.

The Vickery Creek Middle School Spanish teacher said she plans to use Skype to allow her students to ask questions of a Mexican school director, something they used to do by e-mail.

“I can’t imagine which one of my students wouldn’t find that engaging,” Paulding said.

According to Dixon’s lecture, there’s nothing modern students want more than to be engaged in what they’re learning.