Friday, December 28, 2012

Varied Visions of 21st Century Learning

I recently listened to a vendor talk about the role of video in the classrooms of the future.

He described a classroom where the teacher is at the front of the room before students but also captured on video and broadcast to classrooms miles away where the teacher's lecture would be heard by many students beyond the traditional classroom. The video system would allow students to watch and listen, but also to interrupt to ask questions or comment.

The vendor said, "Imagine, a teacher reading Dr. Seuss to students hundreds of miles away!"

First, I want to say that foremost I applaud people and organizations who try to envision classrooms of the future.

However, finding a new vision can be difficult. With no obvious alternatives, we all tend to default to visions of classrooms past. I have been there too. Eager to transform education for the 21st Century using the advantages of modern technology, I planned and even took part in training teachers on how to move their worksheets and quizzes to online web applications. Teachers could continue to instruct their classrooms with traditional methodologies but use technology tools for drills and assessments.

Of course my error is obvious. Education does not have an issue with finding a variety of ways of drilling or testing our kids. The quality of the classroom experience is determined entirely by the quality of the instruction in the classroom.

To improve our classrooms for the 21st Century, we need to change our focus from one where the teacher is the star of each classroom. The more actively engaged students are, the more they learn. This is where technology becomes the fulcrum that makes the difference. Students can use modern technologies to research, to break their learning into parts, and to reassemble it into new knowledge. Our students need to be working together in cooperative situations using project-based learning and evaluated by authentic assessments of the work they have done.

When technology is engaged in a manner where it makes a difference in actual instruction, we will see that it offers the leverage we need to make positive change in education.

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