EDCI 335 learning design

Learning Environments of the Future

Learning Environments of the Future

 

 

“Schools and universities can no longer claim a monopoly as seats of learning or of knowledge. Such learning and knowledge now resides in distributed networks. Learning can take place in the home, in work or in the community as easily as within schools.”Graham Attwell

What will the future of learning environments look like?

 

Will learners continue to turn up, in droves, at brick and mortar schools where they will be divided into learning groups by age, sat in desks with the teacher and whiteboard as the focal point, compartmentalized by constricting classroom walls, and taught individual subjects within the narrow confines of a curriculum dictated by an educational governing body?  Probably not, so are we then on the cusp of radically altering our learning environments to better suit tomorrow’s learners? – Learner’s whose brain physiologies are changing and whose socially connective needs are rapidly evolving.

 

Learning environments transcend the traditional four-walled classrooms and may include books/text, e-learning, resources, relationships/communities, assessments, and physical learning spaces.  Simply put, learning environments are physical and virtual spaces or objects that are directly connected to the learning process.

 

Nobody really knows what future learning environments will actually look like, but we know they need to evolve from the current model.  In Sugata Mitra’s TED Ed video titled, “Build A School In The Cloud” he talks about the today’s learning environments with reproach.  He accurately conveys that today’s model of education is rooted in Colonial British Empire history.  A model that was important 300 years ago but not so much any more.  This mirrors Sir Ken Robinson’s view of current learning environments in his video, “Changing Education Paradigms.“  Education is a slow institution to change.   To better communicate my vision what learning environments might look like beyond today, I thought it prudent to look at the future in two steps – the near future and far future.

 

Near Future:

I believe learners will continue to attend brick and mortar schools to receive their education, but I expect they will have more choice over their learning.  Learners will be permitted more freedom to direct their own learning and pursue their own methods of inquiry.  Rather than educators steering learning based on a set of learning outcomes, learners will work in collaborative groups spanning global communities.  Learners will find each other and organize themselves based on area of interest rather than age.  The near future of learning environments will continue to follow the blended learning model and may include some of the following learning needs:

 

  • Collaboration – many teachers have developed their own personal learning networks to deepen their understanding of how people learn.  In the same way, learners will be encouraged to develop their own networks.
  • There will be a shift from teaching content to teaching how to learn.  Brain science will be explored further with respect to understanding the changing physiology of our learner’s brains.
  • Content will continue to move from analogue to digital and involve highly personalized learning.
  • Learning won’t be restricted to the confines of a traditional six-hour school day.  Learners will follow their own paths of inquiry and take advantage of the expanding role of open education.
  • School will need to be resigned into dynamic physical learning spaces.  Our current classrooms have changed little in 100 years.

Far Future:

Learners will no longer attend brick and mortar schools to receive their education in the way they currently do, and educators will not be employed by a governing body like they are today.  Instead, educators will morph into coaches.  Coaches may be ordinary folk who happen to have a certain skill(s) set in demand.  This type of learning will likely be conducted in a virtual environment and be available to anyone wanting to develop that particular skill(s).  Educational communities will naturally develop as like-minded learners find each other in virtual environments.  Like Attwell says in his article, The Future of Learning Environments, “…major impact of the uses of new technologies and social networking for learning is to move learning out of the institutions and into wider society.”

 

Future learning environments will no doubt be exciting and fulfilling and are very likely to be rooted in science and technology.

  • Technology driven  – no need for spelling, writing, pens, or pencils in these environments.  The evolution of computer interfaces means the end of the keyboard and a shift to cognition form of communication.
  • Science driven – Science will continue to help us understand how learn best and we are sure to maximize this in the learning process.

 

What will future learning environments look like from your perspective?

References:

http://knowledgeworks.org/learning-in-2025

The future of the physical learning environment: school facilities that support the user – http://www.oecd.org/edu/innovation-education/centreforeffectivelearningenvironmentscele/49167890.pdf

http://knowledgeworks.org/future-of-learning

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The Science of Motiviation

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How do you stay motivated to continue learning, doing assignments, and progressing as a lifelong learner?

 

“Humans, by their nature, seek purpose—to make a contribution and to be part of a cause greater and more enduring than themselves.” – Daniel Pink, Drive

 

Why is it then that many of us struggle to motivate ourselves?  What is the secret behind motivation and learning?  We cannot start to answer these questions without first defining motivation.

Wikipedia defines motivation as: “The driving force that causes the flux from desire to will in life.” Educational psychologists define motivation as, “…the processes that energize and give direction or purpose to behaviour (Wlodkowski, 1989).”  

 

In simple terms, I think motivation is the internal desire to complete a task one has imagined possible.  I clearly remember the night I decided to run my first ultramarathon.  It was New Year 2006.  I had been trail running for about a year, and could consistently run for a couple of hours on the trails without issue, but the Diez Vista was an altogether different challenge.  I would be required to run non-stop for over seven hours.  Where did the motivation come from to transition from running two hours on a Saturday morning with friends to running 50km?  Looking back there were six key elements to my motivation:

 

  • Plan/schedule – at the time I was running with friends who had developed a detailed training plan
  • Practice – every time I practiced, I felt stronger and moved a little closer to the goal
  • Confidence – after each training session I had inevitably run longer than I had ever done before, and with that my confidence and belief in myself increased.
  • Overcoming adversity – on our last training run which was scheduled to last about 7 hours.  I snapped the laces on my trail shoes and got lost.  The smaller group I was with turned a 7 hour training run into an 8.5 hour run. At that point i knew I could finish the race.
  • Support – I received and gave emotional support to ten friends for the four months we trained for the race.  I also received coaching, tactical, and nutritional support from my fellow runners.
  • Challenge – for the majority of the time I was training, I wasn’t entirely sure whether I could actually complete the race, and I believe this uncertainty was a driving force behind my motivation.

My mantra throughout my training was an inspiring quote I found in a running magazine in 2006:

Your biggest challenge isn’t someone else; it’s the ache in your lungs, the burning in your legs, & the voice inside you that yells, “Can’t!” But you don’t listen, you push harder. You hear the voice whisper “Can.” and you discover that the person you thought you were is no match for the one you really are.” – unknown

 

Motivation and Life-Long In Education

When I think of my own motivation for lifelong learning it stems from a desire to master my craft.  I can see the educator I want to be.  I have a strong mental image of him.  I know exactly what he looks like, his educational pedagogy, how he interacts with his learners and his peers, and how he designs his learning experiences.

 

A recent Scientific American article titled, Three Critical Elements Sustain Motivation helped me to better understand how I maintain a love of learning, and what keeps me motivated through the process.

 

Self-determination

Motivation can manifest speedily when we feel like we are the captains of our own ship.  When we have a level of control over the direction of our learning, we are more likely to be motivated to move along the continuum to mastery.  The energy and enthusiasm applied to a given task increases significantly when one is given the freedom to approach a new learning experience in ways that best suits one’s own learning style.  Learner autonomy is important in this phase.  As Dirksen says, “You may be able to influence your learners, but you can’t control them.”

 

Purpose

When I compare the most successful learning experiences I have had with my learners with my own learning experiences I noticed that both events have a clear purpose for learning.  When I canvas my learners about learning that is most purposeful I often hear responses such as “Can I use it in real life?” and “Will this help me with…” In order to motive today’s learners the work they complete needs to have real life applications.  It has to be authentic and engaging.  More importantly, the work needs to be purposeful for the learner and not necessarily what the teacher thinks is purposeful.  The only way an educator can achieve this is to spend the necessary time to understand each of his/her learner’s needs.

 

Progress

Proficiency is equally important in the science of motivation.  To maintain motivation levels one needs to feel success on a regular basis.  Going back to my trail running experience for a moment – If I hadn’t see small gains in performance each week, then I’m sure my motivation levels would have dropped to the point that I would have discontinued my goal.  From a learner’s perspective I believe it is important for students to see and measure the progress they are making in order to maintain their motivation levels.  Video gaming is an excellent example of facilitating an ongoing level of progress to maintain motivation.  Gamers are constantly being provided with feedback on their performance.  This feedback enables them to see progress, and they can visualize their goal and maintain their motivation.

 

References:

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/three-critical-elements-sustain-motivation/

http://www.personal.psu.edu/bxb11/m&g.pdf

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motivation

Design For How People Learn, Julie Dirksen

Drive, Daniel Pink

Four Skills for the 21st Century Learner

There have been numerous blogs, articles, and websites that have created meaningful dialogue on the topic of the skills necessary for the 21st century learner.  As part of my #tiegrad courses, I have been asked to contribute to this topic by adding my own set of skills.  I designed this model to help myself make the connections between the people, the content, and skills required for learners in the 21st century.

21st Century Skills

Four skills important for the 21st Century learner that relate to my practice are social and emotional skills, and physical/natural skills, basic (core) academic skills, and higher-level thinking skills.  When these skills are supported and practiced by the school, home, and the community, and combined with authentic, meaningful and real-world practice we are preparing our learners to make positive contributions to society.

Skills in order of importance:

1. Social and Emotional Skills

“Research conducted during the past few decades indicates that social and emotional learning programming for elementary- and middle-school students is a very promising approach to reducing problem behaviors, promoting positive adjustment, and enhancing academic performance.” – John Payton, CASEL

I have written about the importance of social and emotional skills in learning before.  As we become more connected in a technology sense, we become less connected in a face-to-face sort of way.  The skills required to be successful in the real world involve collaborating and problem solving with others.  Humans are far more productive and effective when they work together in groups consisting of people with different strengths and not independently.  The 2008 CASEL report, The Positive Impact of Social and Emotional Learning for Kindergarten to Eighth-grade Students emphasizes the importance of these life skills and their direct correlation to academic success.

2. Basic Core Academic Skills

It is critical to develop basic core academic skills in learners, as they are lay the foundation for the development of higher order thinking skills later in life.  How is it possible to develop a cell phone battery that lasts an entire day without knowing how electricity flows in a circuit?  I feel there is a shift in education towards engaging our learners in higher order thinking skills such as critical thinking, synthesizing, evaluating, and producing at the cost of developing basic academic skills.  Higher-level thinking skills are important but there needs to be a balance between these skills and the development of foundational skills.  In my experience those learners who know their times tables are far more effective at completing multiplication task when compared to those who.  They are stronger at working on problem solving, and generally enjoy mathematics more than those who struggles with basic computation.  It can be compared to children reading for information.  Fluent readers are far more effective at reading for information when compared to those learners who need to decode, break apart, and sound out the majority of the words they read.  Learners need opportunities to repeat tasks over and over to achieve mastery.  If they are constantly challenged with new material they may suffer from academic burnout and shut down – effectively stagnating their learning process.  In Kelly Tenkely’s article, Why Drill and Skill are Necessary in Education and later comments she defends the need for drill and skill in education.  By no means does she suggest that her entire curriculum should be founded on these skills, rather she advocates for balance. “These activities give students an opportunity to practice a skill and become familiar with it before creating with it.  Drill and skill games and activities give students room to find patterns and build understanding.”

3. Physical/Natural Skills

“We have such a brief opportunity to pass on to our children our love for this Earth, and to tell our stories. These are the moments when the world is made whole.”

Richard Louv

A 2013 Maclean’s article titled, Early education: this is not a field trip reports on a pilot kindergarten program designed to exposed young children to the wonders of nature.  With “90 per cent of Canadian children are gaming and six out of 10 households have a gaming console” there exists evidence that children are not spending the same amount of time playing outdoors as they once did.  Children who do not engage in active play outdoors don’t learn to socialize, share, and problem solve in the same way children who are in touch with nature do.  In my experience, students spend entire weekends playing video games, and rather venture outside to play.  A healthy balance between indoor and outdoor play has been lost.

4. Higher-Level Thinking Skills

We need to develop, in our learners, the ability to use the technology that exists at their fingertips today, the technology that will be developed in the future.  I genuinely believe we need to be raising a generation of socially conscious learners who, through the use of technology, can make the world a safer and healthier place for generations to come.  By facilitating the learning of higher-order thinking skills such as problem solving, critical thinking skills, a sense of inquiry, comparing and identifying ideas, and using old concepts to create new ideas, we can encourage our learners to innovative.  The basis of robust learning design focuses more on what learners can do with knowledge and not how much knowledge they can retain.

In summary, there are many skills that are useful for today’s learner.  You may or may not agree with the importance of these skills I suggested or how they relate to today’s learner, but in my experience and based on the 9-11 year olds I work with, these are important skills.  When learners have a strong support network, when they engage with content that is relevant and meaningful, when they are allowed to follow their own paths of inquiry, and have their physical and emotional needs met, they take a step closer to becoming lifelong learners.
What skills do you think are necessary for your learners now and in the future?

Social and Emotional Needs: The Basis Of Successful Learning Design

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In my latest #tiegrad class I was asked to think about, and reflect on, a misconception/misunderstanding about teaching and learning I have experienced, and how it has led to new insights and knowledge about my craft.  

The biggest misconception/misunderstanding I have experienced since I started teaching in 2006 is the realization that learning cannot take place before the social and emotional needs of my students are met first.  I used to think my role as an educator was to teach content to students based on a set of guidelines provided by the Ministry of Education, and students would attend class each day ready and able to learn – but I’ve learned the hard way that this is not always the case.  Before I realized the importance of attending to the social and emotional needs of my learners, I tended to open the academic floods gates at the morning bell and get straight to work.  I didn’t know any better.  I assumed that my students were ready, willing, and able to learn.  I couldn’t have been more wrong!

“Self-regulation is the ability to manage your own energy states, emotions, behaviours and attention, in ways that are socially acceptable and help achieve positive goals, such as maintaining good relationships, learning and maintaining wellbeing.” – Dr. Stuart Shankar.

The ability of my learners to self-regulate is an important part of meeting the social and emotional needs of my learners.  Making time to explicitly teach skills around self-regulation (making our learners aware of conditions they need to be successful, teaching them how to deal with unexpected situations, and how to relate to others) has become increasingly important in today’s classrooms.  The best learning design in the world cannot reach the dysregulated learner.  One can design experiences, which engage students fully in the learning process, ask questions that lead to meaningful exploration of the topic, and allow time for students to follow their own line of inquiry, but unless we are able to decode our learners and understand their state of mind as they enter our classrooms we are fighting a losing battle.

Two Techniques To Attend To The Social and Emotional Needs Of Students:

1. Restorative Classroom Practices

By creating conditions where students feel safe to express their emotions and build community and support with their classmates, Restorative Classroom Practices can have positive effects on learner’s emotional needs.  The simple act of gathering in a circle at the start of the school day, checking in with how we are feeling, creating a sense of equality, and giving a voice to every student, Restorative Classroom Practices have had positive and meaningful impact on the student’s classroom experience.  Perhaps the biggest shift I have made over the years is that I have been able to shift decision making process from teacher to the students with remarkable success.

2. MindUp Curriculum

Using the latest research in neuroscience, MindUp curriculum provides educators with the tools to engage their learners in how the brain functions, what the optimum conditions for learning are, when the brain develops roadblocks for learning, and techniques to overcome these roadblocks.  Many of my learners struggle to attend to the ‘present’ while in the classroom.  They’re either reflecting on the past, or looking forward to the future, and this lack of attending to the present is having negative effects on their school experience.  Creating a ‘mindful’ classroom is not just a buzzword of 21st Century learning.  It is precisely because of the speed and the attention grabbing technological world we live in that students need to create time and space to disconnect, focus within, and calm their minds.  A mindful classroom creates a space for the dysregulated learner to find comfort and a sense of belonging.

It’s A Book, Jackass!: Technology v Attention

“The average time spent with screen media among 8- to 18-year-olds is more than twice the average amount of time spent in school each year.” (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2010; National Center for Education Statistics, 2007–2008)

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Whenever I think about use of technology in the classroom and its impact on learning and attention, I cannot help but make connections to the book,  “It’s a Book” by Lane Smith.  The book centers on two characters.  One is a digital native and the other is an analogue learner.  The two of them are having different experiences with a paper book.  When I read it I think of the analogue learner as a grandfather and digital native as a grandson.

– CAN IT TEXT?

– BLOG?

– SCROLL?

– WI-FI?

– TWEET?

– No… it’s a book.

We live in a vastly different technological world than we did just 10 years ago, and advances in technology are unlikely to slow down.  Realistically, these advances are likely to tax our attention more and more.  We no longer need to ask the question Do advances in technology affect our learner’s attention? Because there is mounting evidence to support this.  In a recent New York Times article titled Technology Changing How Students Learn, Teachers Say Dr. Christakis showed that students saturated by entertainment media, experience “supernatural” stimulation that teachers might have to keep up with or simulate.  He further explained that heavy technology use “Makes reality by comparison uninteresting.”  Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence, claims there exists the possibility physiological changes in the brain as a result of advances in technology, “Children I’m particularly worried about because the brain is the last organ of the body to become anatomically mature. It keeps growing until the mid-20s,”

The question we need ask ourselves as educators is “How do we continue to provide engaging and meaningful learning experiences for students with or without attention difficulties? Research conducted with the help of classroom teachers by Common Sense Media, a non-profit organization that studies the effects that media and technology have on young users, shows that technology advances have affected learner’s ability to attend to a variety of tasks, but at the same time the research found an increase in learner’s ability to find new information and multitask effectively.  A recent Psychology Today article written by Jim Taylor, Ph.D. supports some of the findings in the Common Sense Media research by claiming that exposure to technology isn’t all bad.

Research shows that, for example, video games and other screen media improve visual-spatial capabilities, increase attentional ability, reaction times, and the capacity to identify details among clutter. Also, rather than making children stupid, it may just be making them different.”  

I think it is safe to say that in order to develop successful learners who are able to contribute meaningfully to society a balance needs to be established with the use of technology.

Attention In My Grade 5/6 Classroom

I have worked in the same grade 5-6 classroom for the last five years, and the majority of my students spend many hours interacting with technology by playing video games and watching YouTube videos.  It is difficult to establish whether there is a direct link between increased in screen time and a drop in learner’s ability to attend tasks, but what is clear is the difficulty I have in capturing and maintain attention in class.  It would be pompous of me to think I do not own a slice of the problem, and need to continue to work on improving my learning design to better suit the needs of my learners, but I work in a system that is slow to change and adapt to a different style of learner.

So How Do We Adapt To Attention Changes Within Our Learners?

  1. We can use stories to capture and hold learner’s attention.  Stories are logical, they have a sequence we are all familiar with, they promote questioning and inferring, and can create and convey strong emotions.

  2. Use visuals cues such as infographics to help students absorb information.  “Verbal and visual cues are processed differently by the brain….Unless someone has a vision or related impairment, they learn from visuals.” Dirksen

  3. Allow students to work in groups.  Group work creates a space for positive social interactions, support, and leadership.

  4. Ask questions that cannot be answered by a simple Google search.  Ask questions that require learners to interpret

  5. Put your students a state of cognitive dissonance.   Cognitive dissonance occurs when learners are present with an event that is contradictory to their own experiences.