A Digitized Teaching Philosophy That Uses Tech Like Kids Do

Posted by Gerard LaFond

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The traditional education system is slowly but surely being turned on its head. Technology is finding its way into the classroom in new ways, enabling and encouraging a generation of students who have grown up using technology to better engage, understand, and master their schoolwork. These advances are changing the ways we think about learning, how we access and obtain information, and radically changing the way we interact with others. It’s a slow shift, but it’s not going away.

From the chalkboard to the SMART Board, a vision of today's student is radically different than that of a student in 1960, 1980, or even 2000. Today's "digital natives" have grown up online, bringing different expectations into the classroom. Today's student expects her learning experience to be a collaborative process—a mixture of traditional learning and game-like elements, or a live version of their online experiences.

Using technology, educators can provide an interactive, meaningful experience and create an environment where students can learn at their own pace, actively seeking out new information and empowering themselves to master subjects. Although the education system has begun embracing technology in the classroom, the immersion needs to happen faster to better address the needs of today’s students.

Here's how the two worlds can meet, and ultimately help students learn more effectively:

1. Provide students with a safe space to fail. In an online game, if a player fails a level, the biggest consequence is loss of points or a virtual life. The player is able to attempt various different solutions to the problem until they’re successful. In school, if a student fails, they face much more serious retribution or social stigma. Allowing a student to take chances without risk of ultimately failing a test, a class, or losing a year in school helps avoid a loss in motivation stemming from the shame of failure. Just like in a game, when a student fails fast, they learn faster.

2. Move online elements into the classroom. Create a space for students to interact in the classroom as they do online: establish a live feedback forum. More than 53 percent of American high school students use Facebook more than once a day, and are used to getting comments, likes, and other feedback on their actions. Creating a culture in the classroom that incorporates a similar forum for students to provide feedback blends their online experience with their educational experience, increasing their interest and engagement.

3. Create a comfortable environment to ask questions. Students need to feel comfortable in the classroom asking for help. Online resources can help students learn much of basic, foundational information they may hesitate to ask about in the classroom (aka raising their hand). The student is then able to build on the concepts they’ve mastered online in class, effectively being confident enough to seek help in the classroom, as well as outside of it.

4. De-structure the classroom. The traditional education system focuses on mastering a concept, testing it, and moving on. But, with mass amounts of information available online, technology can encourage students to build on the foundation of information they learn in the classroom. Today's student can access additional information that interests them after the test is over—sparking the process of lifelong learning.  

As students become more active online in their day-to-day lives, the process of integrating technology into their educational experience will continue to evolve. Teaching students how to find information could be as important a skill as actually learning a subject, like geometry. Turning classrooms into 21st century learning environments, will aide in effectively preparing students for the rigors of higher education and their careers.

Children looking at computer image via Shutterstock