Dr. Matthew X. Joseph – Follow on Twitter @MatthewXJoseph
The morning Keynote from Scott McLeod @mcleod at the @massupt (#MASSUPTEI18) talked about making learning relevant and used a phrase “Moving from Consumption to Creation” . He also challenged us to write a thoughtful tweet and that is where I started and it morphed into this post. Unfortunately, my excitement and passion for this topic had me staying in the auditorium to write and miss the MASS photo. But for me to own the learning, I have to think it though and then talk (or write) my thoughts out to really take ownership of the content.
It was funny (or sad) to see the “engagement projects” of poster boards, dioramas, or craft store solar systems. Students frequently wonder and sometimes ask, “Why are we doing this? Why do I need to know this? Why are we spending so much time on this? Why do we have to do this busywork?” Students need to feel that what they are being taught has a purpose in their lives. Therefore, it is the job of teachers to make their lessons relevant to their students. So how do we do this in the current schools? I think through active learning. Kids don’t come to school to watch teachers work. So, shifting the heavy lifting in learning from teacher to student will shift instruction to a more active and creative relevant learning environment. Active relevant learning will also increase higher order reasoning and understanding of a topic. John Holt said “Learning is not the product of teaching. Learning is the product of the activity of learners.”
We often talk about engagement and students having an active role in learning. However, if you look at the classroom of the 50’s, you would see desks in rows, a teacher in the front of the room doing most of the talking, books out on the desks, and students consuming the lesson. Should schools in 2017 follow this same model? The answer should be a resounding very loud NO, but that is not always the case. In today’s classroom, do we teach by telling information that students are expected to consume?
Edger Dale researched active learning and found that students tended to remember 90% of what they said or did in a lesson. But only 10% of what they read, 20% of what they heard, and 30% of what they saw. Benjamin Franklin said “Tell me, I forget. Teach me, I remember. Involve me, I learn.” Are we involving students in learning? Teachers are often asked to write objectives or “I can” statements on the board before the learning begins. However, education is evolving right before our eyes. We should be focusing on the students writing “I did” statements after a lesson about what they created or learned during class.
Active learning refers to the idea that students are actively engaged in the learning process, rather than passively absorbing content. Students engage in the material they study through reading, writing, talking, listening, and reflecting. For example, students can solve problems, answer questions, formulate questions of their own, discuss, explain, debate, or brainstorm during class. The benefits to using such activities are many, including improved critical thinking skills, increased retention and transfer of new information, increased motivation, and improved interpersonal skills.
Think about forward thinking companies like Google, Apple, Facebook. Those companies pride themselves in a culture of providing flexibility, collaboration, team-based, project-based, and the capability of creating during the work day. Active learning can begin to give classrooms and students those creative opportunities and increase student participation, engagement, and retention. Giving students ownership in their own learning can make a more engaging classroom experience.
We focused our collaboration and ideas around how the 4 Cs (collaboration, creativity, communication, and critical thinking) can be weaved into learning outcomes to ensure learners are taking an active role in their learning. Having activities geared toward individual learning activities, paired activities, informal small groups, and cooperative student projects will begin to shift educator’s planning to a more active lesson plan. So how do we make this shift in our profession?
A starting point for educators can be to create an assignment that requires students to search Google Scholar for an article that addresses current research or an assigned content topic. Once they’ve read their articles, they can make and share with classmates a brief video or multimedia presentation in which they summarize their thoughts and key points.
Another idea that could drive active learning is for educators to ask students to find a website related to a topic you’re covering in class, then evaluate and think critically about the information they find on that website. Students can discuss findings on a discussion board or Google Drive then break into groups for a discussion during class time. The resulting conversation could open students’ eyes to the variety and relative reliability of the information they find on the open web.
Educators can even allow students to use multimedia tools to create a final presentation. It wouldn’t be surprising to see students selecting to use tools like:
Flickr: Web-based video and photo sharing.
VoiceThread: Cloud-based media aggregator that allows focused conversations and reflection around a specific topic.
PowToon: Tool to create animated presentations.
Animoto: Tool for creating videos and presentations.
Audacity: A cross-platform software for recording and editing sounds.
Canva: Online graphic design application.
Prezi: Web-based, non-linear presentation software.
Makerspaces are another way to provide creative time and space for students to build prototypes, explore questions, fail and retry, bounce ideas off one another and build something together. Tools to interact with content like coding tools, programing activities, and design gaming to support learners individually or in a collaborative setting.
To make this shift at the classroom level, teachers should have specific strategies that make digital curriculum an ongoing component to their active learning environment. Making regular and meaningful connections to digital content or creative activities will assist both the educator and learner in this shift. Students should have regular opportunities to talk about the work that they are doing and time to share strategies with classmates. Lessons and projects should be designed to make the connections between the digital and physical environments.
Moving from consumption to creation is not an overnight transition. Beginning to become more of a learner centered classroom will infuse creative thinking and increase the 4-C’s of learning. When students become self-directed and take charge of their learning, they work together in an assortment of ways, giving them time to self-manage, self-assess, retain and apply the information.
Our job as educators is to make the classroom as dynamic as the world around us. We got this!