21st century learning

I was part of a staff meeting at my school this week on the topic of 21st century learning.  One of our leading teachers spoke to us about a PD she had attended which talked about the move from traditional learning to student centred learning.  We were given a handout highlighting the differences between the two states of learning although I see it as more of a continuum.  While few of us would consider our style of teaching to be firmly ‘traditional’, a number of constraints work against us to adopt a truly student-centred approach and thus we end up being somewhere in the middle.  The pressure for students to achieve high scores on NAPLAN weighs heavily on most classroom teachers’ minds and makes it difficult to allow the freedom needed to let students explore according to their own interests in diverse areas.  The large class sizes that most classrooms are subject to also make individualising learning challenging.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom.  While there certainly are obstacles to be overcome, we are not restricted to the ‘traditional learning’ end.  As part of this staff meeting, I also presented information recently gained from Release 2 Ultranet training.  Release 2 focuses on learning tasks and the ability for teachers to create tasks online for students to complete, then being able to comment on and assess them.  Parents can then access their student’s information to have a ‘real time’ reference as to how they are progressing.  Putting aside the multitude of technical glitches and a clunky interface (which is a blog post in itself!), this functionality can be used to provide more individualised learning.  Some teachers have already been doing this for years, using learning management software such as Moodle however the Ultranet makes it mainstream and will push all teachers towards this more student-centred approach.  Obviously technology does not change poor teaching by magic into great teaching but the tools are there and accessible to all – let’s hope teachers take advantage of them to deliver the type of learning our students need and deserve.

3 thoughts on “21st century learning

  1. Great post macgirl19. Very true and apt. One of the most difficult issues in student centred learning is record keeping, providing explicit instruction for individual students according to need and ensuring that students are challenged – not just busily doing the easy stuff they have always enjoyed. All LMS’s are a great help with this. (I remember back to 1986 &7 when I was writing individual contracts for my students each week and negotiating timetables with them. I would have killed for one!) Despite some of its challenges and poor start the transportability and and easy access to information on any student you teach because it is system wide should help us all move down that continuum towards the individualised curriculum.

    • Thanks Heather. You’re definitely right about the transportability – that is a huge feature. We’re so often in the dark about new students who arrive at our school. It will be great to have information about students to help us plan for their needs as well allowing them to feel connected as they bring their portfolio with them.

  2. I was at a PD recently for the SparkL program which caused me to spend some time pondering exactly this issue. We are on the cusp of a radical shift in education. This cusp has been a few years in the making already and we have some years to go but once we are through it we will look back and marvel at the amazing ride we experienced. However, like any radical shift it is difficult to let go of the stability that the past offers while we reach for the uncertainty that the future holds.

    Student centred learning as described in VELS is a fanastic vision of education for the future … as teachers in the present we face the difficult challenge of moving students from the ‘traditional’ one-size-fits-all mode of education to the choose-your-own-adventure ideal of VELS. The biggest challenge teachers face is actually perceiving this shift as a continuum and realising that it will take at least a generation of students to achieve it.

    Many teachers don’t trust that students are actually capable of this kind of learning … and to be honest, I would agree that right now most students aren’t … (every time I look at the managing personal learning outcomes I shiver and think “you can’t be serious?”) … but the first bite of the elephant is to ask ‘How do I start to prepare my students for this kind of learning?’ … and yes, despite the kangaroo hopping start to Ultranet this tool will provide a standard platform to help us manage some of the shifts we need to make to our own practice and the expectations of students and parents.

    At the risk of sounding like a fossil, let’s not forget that the world is rapidly changing … I grew up in a world without the Internet but if you take it away now I feel like my arms have been cut off! We all know the cliche that we can’t imagine what the world will be like by the time our students reach adulthood and yet we are the creators of the new education system that will prepare students to be productive adults. We need to shift our thinking before we can shift anyone else’s.

    “I never teach my pupils; I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.” Albert Einstein

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