07 Feb Guest Post: Embracing Future Trends in Fire Service Training Posted at 11:38h in Uncategorized by Jason Pope 3 Comments 0 Likes Guest post by Margi Stone Cooper, Contributing Writer On February 1, 2012, the federal government released a plan to help schools move toward the adoption of digital textbooks. The intent of the new “Digital Textbook Playbook” is to enable all K-12 students to have access to e-books, interactive learning devices, and real-time interaction with teachers within the next five years. So what does this have to do with fire service training? Everything. This nudge should also help light a fire (so to speak) under textbook publishers to release more fire training manuals as e-books and expand their offerings in interactive online courseware. While e-books and e-learning are relatively new to the fire service, they’re not all that new. In fact, both have been around in some form since the early days of the internet. In the past, fire service publishers and training material developers have been slow to produce e-books and online instructional materials because firefighters have been somewhat reluctant to demand them. However, this situation is rapidly changing. Many fire service instructors are starting to embrace the idea that a printed textbook is not the cornerstone of a training course. Instead of relying on curriculum designed by publishers to sell more textbooks, instructors are beginning to see the benefit of developing courses that cater to the way students learn. Fortunately, electronic media provides an efficient and cost-effective means for instructors to create engaging lessons and activities that encourage students to investigate the subject at hand, learn to solve problems, and apply what they’ve learned to their job. Not only that, but today’s students are extremely comfortable with interactive technology and they have come to expect it. Over this next year, fire service instructors will no doubt see a growing use of: Online instruction Smart phones and tablets 1:1 education (also known as “anytime, anywhere” learning), fueled by the increasing use of mobile devices Learning management systems (or LMSs), which are computer servers that allow instructors to track student progress through online courses and tests And, while there are legitimate concerns about using Facebook and Twitter in the classroom, learning via social media. No one is exactly going out on a limb with this prediction. It’s a given. If you need more justification for electronic learning, consider the large number of volunteers in the fire service. Online training has the added benefit of convenience in that students who have families and careers outside the fire service can fit training into their schedule. This means more firefighters receive more training, which enables them to do their job more efficiently and safely. The internet also provides a way for instructors to exchange resources with one another much more easily. This means larger departments can share training materials they’ve developed with smaller departments, particularly rural volunteers who may not have a training officer. The South Carolina State Firefighters’ Association embraces the learning community concept in particular. Because of this, the Association is developing new technology initiatives to facilitate the use of online technology in fire service training, some of which will be announced this spring. In the near future, the Association will also administer a survey to assess their members’ technology needs, preferences, and current capabilities to assist with future planning. Watch for more news in the months ahead. The writer is an educational technology Ph.D. candidate and web content specialist at Oklahoma State University with 20 years of experience in the use of emerging technologies in adult learning and career education.