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Dr. Ronald Kraft

Dr. Ronald Kraft, superintendent and president of Napa Valley College.

When I went to college, I wrote my papers on an old IBM Selectric. In fact, I keep an antique Royal typewriter in my office today as a reminder of simpler times. There was no Apple Watch or Fit Bit to measure my steps and no Alexa to play music, check facts or manage my shopping list.

But times have changed and with it, technology. You’d be hard-pressed to find a student who doesn’t have a cellphone and most students bring their laptops to class. Innovations from Silicon Valley are improving the way we manage our everyday lives. We have apps to order food delivery, learn how to play the ukulele, check if our seafood is sustainable, and see how long the line is for our favorite ride at Disneyland. We can also measure the length of a table, order Uber, and watch a TED talk. The options are endless. Google has essentially replaced the encyclopedia and the dictionary; in fact, Encyclopedia Britannica and Merriam-Webster are now both websites!

We are no longer surprised when a small child can navigate a smartphone better than we can. So how do we turn this new generation’s technology addiction into an educational advantage? One way to keep pace with this shift to tech-focused living is by using the latest educational technology in the classroom. Long gone are the days of boring PowerPoint presentations on overhead projectors. In 1990, 16-mm film projectors ruled the classroom, and in 2010, websites and YouTube videos became commonplace. In 2019, web-based software presentations are replacing PowerPoint (mostly) and writing on whiteboards.

At Napa Valley College, we aim to be a “student-ready college,” which means we need to understand the educational needs of students and provide the academic support necessary to help them learn. We are changing the conversation about readiness and creating institutional value to facilitate student success. What must change in our policies, practices, and culture in order to be truly student-ready? Those are questions we can’t be afraid to ask.

At NVC, we’ve set all our students up with email using Microsoft Office 365 – one of the side benefits is they have access to Word, Excel and PowerPoint – access to the programs used in nearly every business today.

We must transform education today to prepare tomorrow’s workforce and that means students must have hands-on experiences with workforce technologies, which, in turn, means we need to improve our own technology infrastructure. Students today expect and demand a mobile-ready, technology-rich support environment.

Technology for access to programs and classes is also critical. We are exploring ways to change our enrollment process and we’re launching an e-brochure this fall. Prospective students will be able to select information they want to learn more about – including programs, services, activities, financial aid and more – and create their own customized Napa Valley College e-brochure, which will be delivered online within seconds to their email account.

One of the most important things technology has done for student learning is to increase web- and distance-learning accessibility. If a student doesn’t live nearby or has to work or take care of family, there is no longer the roadblock there once was to getting a degree.

But there are two sides to every story and a critical balance is necessary. With email and texting and apps that allow us to do absolutely everything online, when do we actually talk to anyone? We must also provide training and educational opportunities for a future where the most successful people will pivot easily between personal relationships and the use of technology.

Read any job description — even a technology-based position — and it will say something about interpersonal communications, excellent written and oral communications … looking for someone who is creative, flexible, collaborative.

How can educators ensure that all students are fully prepared for life, work, and citizenship? We need to provide an opportunity for quality face-to-face interaction in a blended environment that uses innovative technology to help create the best possible opportunity for students.

The college is engaging in conversations with students and the community on this subject. We are committed to shaping our degree and career education experiences to be a strong relevant reflection of student and life success.

In invite you to come see what the college is up to at our 76th annual Founders’ Day open house celebration on Thursday, April 25, from 1-6 p.m.

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Dr. Ronald Kraft is the superintendent/president of Napa Valley College. Visit napavalley.edu to learn more.

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