Furthering Technology in Education: A Conversation with Tiffany Riccardelli
Technology is all around us. Nearly everywhere you look, from your smartphone in your pocket to the interactive tablet at your favorite restaurant, gadgets, devices and new technology are changing how we interact. But is technology gaining similar popularity in professional settings, like the workplace or classroom?
Make no mistake, technology is more prominent, but widespread adoption of technology for purposes such as communication, collaboration and training is still lagging. According to a study conducted by Technalysis Research, the vast majority of the employees polled relies on phone and email for collaboration and inter-office communication, as opposed to more cutting-edge tools like persistent chat, cloud computing software or videoconferencing.
Thankfully, there are initiatives to improve usage and implementation, according to Tiffany Riccardelli of the Institute for Families. Riccardelli is the Senior Program Coordinator for the New Jersey Child Welfare Training Partnership and Grow NJ Kids Training Services, and a current student of the Rutgers University online Master of Education in Adult and Continuing Education program.
Working Toward Improved Educational Technology
“My role is focused on curriculum development and ensuring training quality for each of these programs—so I’m sort of working behind the scenes but still impacting the learning experience for our participants,” she explained.
Because her role is focused on these elements, she chose to pursue the optional Educational Technology specialization at Rutgers. She plans to use the knowledge and skills she is gaining in her advanced degree to continue to improve technology in education for adult learners.
“Once I complete my degree, I’d love to become even more involved in the educational technology we use with our programs,” Riccardelli noted. “Currently, the majority of our work is done in the traditional classroom-based model with paper handouts and participant guides. I’d love to use what I’m learning to move us into the 21st century and build more of an online presence for our programs.”
Growing an Interest in Rutgers’ Online Education
For Riccardelli, it makes sense that her interest in furthering technology in the classroom would lead her to this program.
“I specifically wanted a program that had an adult education focus, and the ability to take courses online was a really important factor,” she said. “I’ll admit that the program is a lot more rigorous than I thought it would be, but it’s incredibly comprehensive and I’m learning and applying so much more than I anticipated.”
One aspect of the program that surprised Riccardelli is the sense of camaraderie and cohesion she has experienced in the program. Before her enrollment, Riccardelli was concerned that this would be lacking. She emphasized, however, the great relationships she’s built with her fellow online students.
“I love the sense of community we’re building in the online cohort,” she stated. “I worried that I’d feel disconnected using the online platforms, but we’ve gotten to know each other really well and find other ways to connect outside of the discussion boards. It’s another way my tech skills have been enhanced—Google Hangouts, Skype, etc.”
Leveraging the Ed.M. in ACE for Professional Growth
As noted, the education realm could do more to integrate technology into learning, especially in an increasingly connected society. With the Educational Technology specialization in the online Ed.M. in ACE program, this is an area Riccardelli hopes to be involved in.
“I would love to manage an educational technology department specifically focused on professional development,” she suggested, speaking to her career aspirations after graduating. “This is an exciting field that’s just beginning to really take off, and new digital tools are opening doors to different ways to approach instruction.”
By design, Rutgers curriculum can assist students in pursuing career goals like Riccardelli’s
“The courses in the Educational Technology specialization have introduced me to some amazing new tools but, more importantly, they’ve taught me how to think strategically about implementing technology in the classroom and where to find the resources needed to do this,” Riccardelli explained.
Specifically, Riccardelli cited “researching, testing, and strategically applying technology tools effectively in different learning opportunities” as already having impacted her current work designing and implementing professional development programs at the Institute for Families.
Pairing Online Learning with a Tech Focus
All in all, the online format of the Rutgers Ed.M. in ACE program has been a positive experience for Riccardelli, not just because of her interactions with peers but also because of the faculty and flexibility.
“The faculty at Rutgers has been fantastic,” she revealed. “They’re never more than an email away. I love that they really work to respond to their students and address concerns that might arise.”
Through the online structure, Riccardelli can also complete coursework around her schedule, something beneficial to her profession and her parenting.
“I would not have been able to complete this program without the online aspect,” she concluded. “With a busy job during the day and a young child at home, it would be impossible to spend hours each week in an on-campus classroom.”
And that is one core tenet behind Rutgers’ online degree offerings: bringing flexibility, quality and skilled faculty to a diverse student base. One day soon the learning experience could take another step into the 21st century thanks to Tiffany Riccardelli.
Interview with Tiffany Riccardelli