With so much technology available to deliver and receive content, one can imagine a class where the instructor is delivering a lecture via cellphone to a class full of tablets. No one would want to go back to the days of slates and chalk, but how does a teacher manage to nurture a sense of engagement in our high-tech classrooms? How can students feel motivated and activated when devices are managing the flow of information?

In Cisco Networking Academy classrooms around Maryland, innovative instructors create a sense of student “ownership” that produces stellar results.

The Networking Academy content is fully cloud-based, available 24/7 via smartphones and tablets as well as PCs. With all that access, savvy instructors like Jason Kahler have created classroom environments that take students beyond content to application.

Jason, Cisco instructor at the Center of Applied Technology-South in Anne Arundel County, creates a classroom environment as much like “the real world” as possible. First-year students in his two-year program “work for” second-year students, who request services in the form of work orders. Each year’s team in the Cisco program elects office positions and conducts planning meetings.

Jason's Lab

Jason’s Lab

Student Engagement

Are Jason’s students engaged in the class?  Here’s powerful proof. In planning meetings, students decided which open-enrollment courses at the local community college would go the farthest to helping the class implement a new CCNA Voice program next year. Several students voluntarily enrolled in those courses, gaining the knowledge and skills necessary to support the success of the entire group.  This “above and beyond” attitude reflects the highest level of student “ownership” of the program.

Instructor Trainer Assistants

Jason’s newest idea is the creation of instructor trainer assistants. Jason’s students have the opportunity to apply for a position as a trainer assistant during this summer’s statewide Cisco instructor training. The students will help instructors attending the training to see the curriculum from a student’s perspective; they will serve as technical aides, but more importantly, they will be able to communicate with instructors about learning styles and methods that succeed with today’s students.

In just one year, Jason has achieved a 90% success rate on industry certification (100% of his second-year students are certified!), and doubled the number of students choosing the Cisco Networking Academy program at his school.

Students in classes like these are learning valuable “people skills” that will set them apart in the IT field. Their active engagement in the delivery of content gives them a vested interest, not only in their own achievement, but in the success of others. These students will become the best team players as well as the best innovators—a truly powerful combination!