I Can't Wait to Find out What the Next 5 Years are Going to Teach me!
I’ve had an amazing, inspiring, and incredibly educational experience while evolving EmergingEdTech into one of the most visited education technology sites on the Web over the last 5+ years. The site now averages over 50,000 unique visitors a month and is approaching 20,000 subscribers consuming content across a handful of social media platforms.
I can hardly believe that it’s become so popular, and I feel blessed and humbled by it. I couldn't be more grateful for the relationships I’ve built, the things I’ve learned, and the gratitude of so many readers.
While preparing for a much needed vacation, I found myself reflecting this week on how much I’ve learned since launching the site in the spring of 2009. As I’ve gotten deeper into teaching in recent years I’ve grown from a passionate observer and commentator to an inspired, grateful practitioner. I thought it would be fun to consider which of the many ideas I’ve been steeped in are the most powerful and meaningful.
If I could select a handful of concepts to “shout from the mountain tops”, what would they be? While I know that these ideas will continue to morph over time, as of right here, right now, here’s are 5 things I've learned that I think are worth emphasizing.
1. Active Learning is Engaged Learning
We learn so much more when we do. Isn’t everyone a kinesthetic learner to some extent? When you set your hands and mind to an active pursuit, the other senses can get further engaged.
Without getting lost in definitions, it is not a huge stretch to say that many formal learning concepts, ideas like Problem Based Learning, Constructivist Learning, Experiential Learning, and so on, are all forms of Active Learning. They all lend themselves to an improved learning experience in comparison to the more passive process of simply listening to a lecture. That isn’t to say that a lecture can’t be a good learning experience, it can, but when students are doing, thinking, and moving, they are more likely to be engaged and learning at a deeper level.
Of course, I should point out that technology is not essential to Active Learning, it is simply offers a rich set of tools that lend themselves to many Active Learning possibilities.
2. Flipped Learning Makes Serious Sense (when done well!)
‘Flipped’ Teaching and Learning is one of the most powerful ideas I’ve come across when it comes to uses of digital technology that can provide an improved learning experience.
In the first few years of reading, writing, and learning about education technology I found myself consistently thinking, “a lot of these tools and techniques are fun and cool, but are any of them ultimately improving learning outcomes?”
With so many industries being “digitized”, was there a path for education to embrace digital technologies in a positive way (rather than being transformed in a radical but not entirely positive manner, as has been the case in the music industry for example)?
When I stumbled across reverse instruction, I knew I had finally found a use of technology that could truly help students and teachers and advance learning. Around the same time, evidence was coming to light indicating that blended learning is more effective than either ‘ground’ or online learning alone, and further supported the case for flipped instruction (which is ultimately a more specific, structured form of blended learning, to my way of thinking).
The ‘flip’ still has plenty of detractors, and when it is done poorly it can fail, but there is more evidence coming to light every day showing that when done well flipped teaching techniques can improve learning outcomes. I believe the flip is here to stay and I find it pretty easy to imagine that 10 years from now, it will be commonplace.
3. Students who are ‘Making’ are on Their way to Becoming Lifelong Learners
Creation moves me, inspires me, and keeps me going. How about you?
Similarly, when a teacher experiences that moment when a student proudly demonstrates or presents something that they created, this is also a moving, inspiring moment.
When students learn skills that they can use to create – whether they are making physical objects such as a piece of art or a more functional item, or creating digital content – they are often learning skills that they can use again and again throughout their lives.
Look for opportunities to let your students create and be ‘makers’, as part of their course work.
And yes, this is essentially another form of Active Learning, and it does not require technology, but technology can play a powerful role as a maker tool.
4. Social Engagement Enhances Outcomes in Most Digital Learning Modalities
Social interaction is one of the key elements that are present in the traditional face-to-face classroom, but is limited in many online learning environments. Bandura’s Social Learning Theory posits that “people learn from one another, via observation, imitation, and modeling”. If one subscribes to theories of social learning, it logically follows that finding ways to increase social interaction in digital learning situations can enhance learning. Socialization also provides opportunities for emotional engagement, another important factor in the social learning process.
Leveraging social interactions can benefit partially online learning modalities (i.e. hybrid, flipped, blended) as well as fully online learning. This can be as simple as required participation in a discussion forum after consuming flipped learning content, or as involved as a collaborative group project.
Find ways to bring social interaction into digital learning experiences.
5. Never Stop Learning
When teachers model lifelong learning, they are providing an example that students need to see. The same goes for parents only more so, since they are a far bigger influence.
For me personally, I thrive through continued learning opportunities. This has been one of the most rewarding things about creating and ‘living’ EmergingEdTech over these last five years – the opportunity to learn, learn, learn.
Of course, another huge benefit has been getting to interact with enthusiastic, passionate, knowledgeable readers like YOU! Thanks for these last 5 years. I hope you’ll stick around for the ride as the next 5 years roll by!
So, what would your list look like if you wrote one?
Related Posts (if the above topic is of interest, you might want to check these out):
7 Ways That Social Networking Tools Can Yield Social Learning in the Classroom
Flipping the Classroom Facilitates Active Learning Methods
Student Created Content is an Exciting and Inspiring Learning Tool that Teaches Many Skills