Learning as Active Verb

Reviewing Education requires the revision of deeply ingrained ideas about how learning happens. A person’s Education starts long before he or she steps into a school for the first time, and should not end when one graduates. Teachers are not the only source of information anymore. In fact, they can now take a much more relevant role. Students still spend time trying to solve problems that were imagined by their teachers instead of looking for the answers fueled by their own curiosity, and working on problems that affect their real lives. In my previous blog post, I discussed the opportunities and obstacles for the adoption of technology in Education. Today I will focus on the changing role of the student as the leader of his or her own learning.

The current educational model was created during a time when information was not readily available, therefore learning could take place only at school or similar institutions. Due to the Internet, this is no longer true. As explained by Will Richardson (2012), “Some resources may be better than others, but, there’s no dearth of reliable ones if we know how to find them” (Loc.198).  Information tends to become even more open and available. Author Don Tapscott, in his TED Talk, tells a story about how a gold-miner who published geological data he paid for, has received the help he needed to locate where to find gold. When information is everywhere, learning can happen anywhere and at any time. In “Who Owns the Learning”, author Alan November describes a conversation with Michael, a teacher who adopted project-based learning in his classes: “The kids are realizing that learning is a natural process of life. It happens and it should be happening all the time, and as long as you are aware of it, you’re going to get so much more out of it” (loc. 1816).

Another belief that prevents schooling from being a more “hands-on” experience is the idea that there must be an authority, someone who closely controls how learning time is spent. However, as observed in a research conducted by Professor Sugata Mitra (2012), learning can be self-regulated (loc. 256). This phenomenon was also observed by Mr. Tapscott, as he humorously describes in the same TED Talk mentioned before: when he noticed that his children could use a computer without ever being taught, he imagined they were specially gifted, but he later noticed that their entire generation had the same ability.

When the paradigm of the teacher as an authority figure is replaced by one where the teacher is a guide who encourages exploration, technology becomes an important tool. One that does not only replace old-fashion analog tools, but also brings something else, that could not be achieved before. This is the exact definition of the highest level of the SAMR model, which evaluates how technology is incorporated into learning. In short, the levels of the SAMR model are: 1. Substitution, when technology only replaces analogical artifacts such as notebooks, pens and blackboards; 2. Augmentation, when technology improves the activity, without substantial changes to that activity; 3. Modification, when the activity is significantly changed by technology; and finally 4. Redefinition, when technology allows for activities that could not be performed before (Puentedura, 2014).

With this points in mind, the value of empowering students becomes more clear, but there are many voices in Education that need to be heard, including those outside the classroom. For instance, having students in such an autonomous position can make parents uncomfortable. After all, reports with grades based on multiple-choice tests are easier to understand and represent a certain security for parents that their children are learning. Therefore, technology should not be used only for pedagogical purposes, but also to bring more transparency to the relationship between students, teachers, and parents. Tom Whitby (2014) mentions many opportunities in that field, such as the use of a class website or apps such as Remind which allows parents and teachers to communicate anonymously.

Unfortunately, the many pieces in this puzzle need to be moved together or the whole picture will fall apart. While students need to organize their own work as a means to take ownership of their learning, teachers need to find opportunities for incorporating technology to achieve higher levels of engagement, and parents need to take advantage of technology in the name of transparency.

Mitra, S. (2012). Beyond the Hole in the Wall: Discover the Power of Self-Organized Learning. TED Books.

Pudentura, R. (2014) SAMR Model and Bloom’s Taxonomy, Common Sense Graphite.

November, A. (2012). Who Owns the Learning?: Preparing Students for Success in the Digital Age. Solution Tree Press.

Richardson, W.  (2012) Why School?: How Education Must Change When Learning and Information Are Everywhere, TED Conferences

Trilling, B., & Fadel, C. (2009). 21st Century Skills: Learning for Life in Our Times (1 edition.).

Whitby. T (2014) Educating Parents About Education Edutopia


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