The three edtech trends supporting transformative learning.
GUEST COLUMN | by Jon Phillips
With another school year in our midst, teachers and administrators have high expectations for the role of new technology in their classrooms. At the same time, there is a constant narrative around the desire and effort to see transformation in our education systems. The definition of “transformation” is focused on “thorough or dramatic change.” We are standing at the precipice of seeing and experiencing transformation and technology can help with system change. Education technology is not only enabling students and teachers to interact and collaborate in new ways, it is also inspiring students and teachers to introduce new ways of learning that empower students to take a more active role.
It is about giving students the tools to create successful outcomes for themselves, in the classroom and in the world to come, whatever that may look like.
Immersive and innovative learning methods are becoming more mainstream and growing to support truly student-led learning. Technology-driven learning is helping inspire students with experiences that are truly future-ready. Technology can help teachers embrace a model of student-led learning to help students think and problem solve in ways that will prepare them for the opportunities and challenges they will face throughout their lives.
Here are just three ways we see technology enhancing system change in learning and teacher-student interaction that are energizing learning environments this year:
The Rise of Makerspaces and Fab Labs
Schools are introducing new opportunities for hands-on learning through makerspaces and fab labs, which are small-scale workshops offering learning through digital fabrication. Fab labs are designed to help students learn through creation, making and building. A fab lab is generally equipped with an array of flexible computer-controlled tools that cover several different length scales and various materials, with the aim to make “almost anything.” They also include creativity-enhancing technologies like robotics equipment, cameras, audio equipment, 3D printers and the software and powerful computers to interact with those tools. Interacting with this technology from a young age helps K-12 students to problem solve, test and “fail forward.” Through application of tangible interaction, it specifically targets and strengthens the “four Cs” at the core of today’s education system – critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity.
Many makerspaces in schools today are integrated right into the classroom, with students interacting with them during regular school hours. Still, it is not the curriculum driving the need for makerspaces – it is the students. When we can tap into passions that already exist within students and enable them to bring their boundless creativity into the tangible world, the outcome is robust, deep learning that lasts a lifetime. Not only that, but they are empowered to make decisions and learn from them, reinforcing their own voices in a productive and meaningful way.
The Gamification of Learning
As in the business world, education leaders are recognizing the benefits of gamification, or structuring tasks or lessons in such a way that succeeding at them taps into natural motivation and rewards centers. Teachers may gamify their lessons and activities by organizing them around narratives (e.g. students on a quest to retrieve an artifact, learning geography and history along the way). They may also incorporate polling and quiz technology to structure a lesson as an interactive game show.
With the integration of interactive projectors, individual tablets for students and the ability to digitally “raise one’s hand” in the classroom, student-teacher interaction is more immediate than ever. The key to authentic gamification and meaningful use of technology is centered on supporting an intrinsically rewarding experience and not just a mechanical, routine one. This creates a game-like environment where students can receive instantaneous feedback, explore and enjoy competition and engage with the curriculum in a memorable way.
Growth of Personalized, Student-led Learning
Some of the same tools enabling the maker and fab movement and gamification in the classroom are enabling student-led learning, supporting the concept of empowering students to create, lead, and own. When students have access to both a tablet and an interactive projector, they are able to interact with the subject matter in their own ways and at their own pace. Regardless of their passions, students are feeling more empowered when using technology to access information.
For example, a student may project her tablet screen to the entire class as she works through and explains a math problem at her seat. When students take control of the tools used for learning, they take on an active role in the learning process. And as we know, the best way to learn something is to teach it to someone else. This focus on students owning their learning is supporting the “learn, think, lead” concepts that are important to helping students with career and college opportunities.
Of course, technology is merely an enabling force designed to be an accretive force in transforming learning. What’s driving change in the classroom is this new vision of learning, based not on preparing students for the jobs of yesterday but for the workforce of tomorrow. Integrating technology in the classroom is about so much more than teaching students to leverage the technologies available today.
We need to continue to help the expansion of these methods across all schools regardless of district size or location and drive expansion across all grade levels and subject areas. It is about giving them the tools to create successful outcomes for themselves, in the classroom and in the world to come, whatever that may look like. We all need to continue to support our education system with tools and solutions that empower transformation that is thorough and dramatic for the sake of our learners.
Jon Phillips is Managing Director of Worldwide Education at Dell.