Collaboration Principle in Multimedia Learning: A Remix

A summary of Chapter 23 in The Cambridge Handbook of Multimedia Learning written by Paul A. Kirschner, Kemke Kirschner, and Jeroen Janssen

This chapter discusses three principles for effective collaborative multimedia learning, and they determine when and under what conditions collaboration will positively affect learning in a multimedia environment.

 

 

Collaborative learning, learning in teams, is most effective when the learning task is cognitively demanding enough to warrant a collaboration.  A task is described as cognitively demanding when:

  1. It overtly taxes the working memory of the learning
  2. When the benefits of collaboration exceed the transactional activity costs (the cognitive effort expended during collaboration)

 

Three sub-principles of collaboration in multimedia learning:

  1. The learning task is cognitively demanding enough to require collaboration and thus the effective use of a collective working memory.

Collaboration should be considered when the distribution advantage is greater than the transactional activity costs.  The distribution advantage is a benefit of collaboration because the cognitive load generated when collaborating can be spread amongst members of the group.  This allows members to free up cognitive energy to focus on the learning activities.  Transactional activity costs are the costs associated with individual groups members have to expend cognitive energy while collaborating in activities such thinking, communicating and internalizing others thoughts.  Accordingly to the authors, a learning task is recommended for collaboration when the benefits of the distribution advantage outweigh the transactional activity costs.  Collaborating is most beneficial when learners engage in high-complexity tasks and problem-solving activities.

 

How Does This Relate To My Practice?

I need to be mindful when asking my learners to collaborate on tasks.  The task needs to be cognitively demanding enough to warrant a collaboration.  It is possible to collaborate too much, and to do it without much thought.  Collaboration between students is best suited to situations that involve higher level thinking skills such as synthesizing and problem-solving, rather than collaborating for collaborating sake.

 

  1. Multimedia Should Stimulate Effective and Efficient Distribution of Thoughts and Cognitive Processes While Members Carry Out Tasks.

It is important to consider who in a group, of collaborative learners, has the working knowledge of the task and how they effectively share it with other group members. Communication takes place on two levels, the individual and the group level.  Sharing of information involves the externalization of thoughts towards group members and the subsequent internalization of those thoughts by group members.  The effectiveness of sharing information in a group is influenced by factors such as social loafing and the hidden profile paradigm.  Social loafing is the phenomenon where individuals tend to expend less energy when working collectively than when working individually.  Picture team members taking it easy during a tug-of-war event.  The hidden profile paradigm refers to the tendency of collaborative learners, working on complex tasks, not to effectively share information that is only available to one group member.  Interdependence is a key indicator to collaborative success.  The tools used in multimedia collaboration should facilitate group interdependence.  “To maximize information sharing, group members need to be dependent on each other for successfully carrying out and completing a task, should be aware of each other’s knowledge and expertise, and should be made accountable for, visualize, and evaluate the effort they invest.” (Mayer, 2005)

 

How Does This Relate To My Practice?

This is a reminder that, if a cooperative learning task is to be successful, each member of the group must realize that they have an important role to play in the dynamics of the group.  Assigning individual roles to each group member, in order the scaffold the process, may help.

 

  1. Multimedia Should Facilitate Effective and Efficient Communication and Regulations of Actions.  

Effective communication between group members is necessary because collaboration is a complex activity.  In this sub-principle, the authors discuss the importance of relationships in collaborative groups.  A complementary relationship is described as one where people have significantly different functions or characteristics and can compensate for each other’s limitations.  Whereas a supplementary relationship is defined as a relationship where people have many things in common.

Researchers have found that students working in cooperative groups share knowledge and information they have in common, and negate to share their unique knowledge.  Consequently, it is important that members understand the unique skills each member of the group brings to the partnership.  How effectively members do this is a reflection of how useful the group will be at meeting their goals.  Profile and document sharing is a good way for all members to share their expertise and skill sets.

Collaboration in multimedia learning will be effective and efficient if the multimedia environment provides group members with tools to engage in meaningful interaction and thus to effectively and efficiently share their cognitive resources.

The authors suggest three ways multimedia can support effective and efficient communication and self-regulation:

 

  • Offering sufficient opportunities to communicate effectively either through asynchronous communication channels (e.g., email, discussion boards, Internet forums) or through synchronous channels (e.g., chat, video conferencing)
  • Increasing awareness of group activities by creating a multimedia environment that offers information about group members’ knowledge, understanding, or opinions.  In addition, multimedia learning environments should also inform group member of their participation.  Researchers found that this led to a more balanced discussion schedule (Bachour, Kaplan, & Dillenbourg, 2010)
  • Use scripts to support collaboration.  Scripts take the form of adaptations for learns by structuring their interactions including metacognitive activities at the end of a learning sequence. (Weinberger, Ertl, Fischer, & Mandl, 2005)

 

How Does This Relate To My Practice?

I particularly like the use of scripts at the intermediate level to aid in the collaboration process.  I use this practice a lot with my whole-group literacy instruction, but now realize I can incorporate into many other areas of instruction.  Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, I plan to think more carefully about when and whom I ask students to collaborate.  It is often detrimental to throw students together and ask them to collaborate on a task when they may not have had the opportunity to develop relationships, and understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

References:

Bachour, K., Kaplan, F., & Dillenbourg, P. (2010). An Interactive Table for Supporting Participation Balance in Face-to-Face Collaborative Learning. IEEE Transactions on Learning Technologies, 3(3), 203–213. doi:10.1109/TLT.2010.18

 

Mayer, R. E. (2005). The Cambridge handbook of multimedia learning. IThe Cambridge Handbook of Multimedia Learning (Vol. 16, p. 663). doi:10.1075/idj.16.1.13pel

 

Weinberger, A., Ertl, B., Fischer, F., & Mandl, H. (2005). Epistemic and social scripts in computer?supported collaborative learning. Instructional Science, 33(1), 1–30. doi:10.1007/s11251-004-2322-4

The Art of Finding: An Important Digital Literacy

Internet Stats

 

In his book, Smarter Than You Think: How Technology Is Changing Our Minds For The Better, Clive Thompson talks about the emergence of important new digital literacies.  He asks the question of what it means to be literate in a world where our relationship with digital technologies is omnipresent.

According to Internet Live Stats, a highly recognized developer of visual statistics, over 3 billion people around the world use the Internet on a daily basis basis.  Almost 2.5 million emails are sent every second.  5.5 million videos are viewed on YouTube every minute, and 165 million people query Google every hour (“Internet Live Stats,” n.d.)  A massive amount of data is exchanged on the Internet each second.  We used to query libraries for knowledge and information, but now we query powerful search engines instead.

In order to make sense of the information and data we produce every second, we need a new set of skills – new literacies.  The art of searching or finding is an emerging digital literacy.

 

In chapter 5 of Thompson book, The Art of Finding, three important ideas stood out.

 

Separating What is Valuable from The Noise

With Petabytes of data being generated and transferred every hour through the Internet, a mass of data and information is produced.  Those who can develop the skills to search, extract, and make meaningful sense of the data will be more literate than those who cannot.  Developing accurate search techniques can be developed at an early age and should be taught in all k-12 schools.  Google has realized the importance of effective and efficient searching and offers two excellent video tutorials on power-searching.  If we choose not to embrace new digital literacies or equip our learners with a new set of tools we are doing them a disservice, and from a global perspective we may be inadvertently leaving them behind.

With a massive amount of content being created and shared every hour, I find it almost unthinkable to reread a book or re-watch a video.  Like Thompson suggests in this chapter, I invariably end up skimming over the content, unable to comprehend at a deep level, but able to get the gist of the topic.  In my defense, I make copious notes but the reality is unless I develop methods to organize, store, and retrieve that information for later use, I am a less active learner.  As we create and store more and more data that helps us navigate our daily lives, the more important powerful search techniques will become.

 

Augmentation Through The Use of Digital Technologies

The ability to store information in our mind suffers when cognitive load demands tax the capacity our limited working memory.  Computers and the plethora of digital tools can help alleviate this problem.  Those who use embrace digital tools to augment their mind/memory will be more literate than those who cannot.  The freed-up cognitive effort of ‘outsourcing’ some of the mind’s most strenuous tasks to computers and technology allows more time for learning to occur.  Research suggests that digital tools can enhance or work and our lives (Thompson, 2014)  Without an app to save articles from the web, filter that content for specific information, and organize in a way that is meaningful for me, my life would be less organized.  I would also miss countless meetings without the convenience of entering them into my calendar, setting a reminder, and then essentially forgetting about them.

Thompson talks about the term ‘spaced repetition’ in reference to a digital tool he uses to help him remember content in the books he has read.  Amazon’s Kindle app has the function to send reminders in the form of emails, which contain the important information you highlight in the book.  These daily reminders follow an instruction strategy names spaced repetition.   Spaced repetition works on the principle that we forget things over time, but this can be overcome if we review material on a regular basis.  Amazon’s Daily Review is a unique solution to the problem of reading a book once and subsequently losing knowledge over time.

In many classroom, educators do not fully utilize the ability of digital tools to help learners organize their thinking, and offset some of the cognitive load stressors associated with remembering information (Thompson, 2014)

The question of whether technology is making us smarter or dumber is somewhat irrelevant.  Digital technologies are already integrated into every aspect of daily life.  We must find ways to embrace these technologies to our betterment.  Howard Rheingold is focussed on using technology to make use smarter.  He asks the question, “What if humans could build electronic tools that leverage our ability to think, communicate, and cooperate?” (Rheingold, 2012)  Perhaps we can harness new technologies to help us become more socially conscious and extend and augment the capabilities of our incredible minds?

 

 

Focus or Distraction?

Some might say that our creativity may be negatively affected by the digital tools we embrace for our most creative work.  If I am to be honest, I am easily distracted when working online.  It is too easy for me to get sidetracked on a topic while browsing online.  If I am not checking my Twitter feed, then I easily succumb to cross-checking something I have just read with another source online, and before I know it, half an hour has passed.

Most of my eureka moments happen not when I am directly thinking about an area of research, but when I am cycling to work, or out for a run.  Thompson explains that research suggests that if the content we are reading is meaningful to us, then we will remember it.  If it’s not, we are likely to forget.  From an educator’s perspective this brings us back to the age-old problem of attention, and how to create learning opportunities that are meaningful to students.  As learners access digital tools in schools more and more, educators have an obligation to teach strategies to combat distractions while working online.  It turns out that the self-regulated learning skills required to be a successful offline learner are the same ones required to be successful online.

 

References

Internet Live Stats. (n.d.). Retrieved November 08, 2014, from http://www.internetlivestats.com

Rheingold, H. (2012). Mind Amplifier: Can Our Digital Tools Make Us Smarter? (Kindle Edi.). TED Conferences. Retrieved from http://www.amazon.ca/Mind-Amplifier-Digital-Smarter-Kindle-ebook/dp/B009GQXRQ8/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1415556570&sr=1-1

Thompson, C. (2014). Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing our Minds for the Better. New York: The Penguin Group.

 

Social Media Use in K-12 Physical and Health Education

When I first stumbled across Matt J. Vollum’s article, The Potential for Social Media Use in K-12 Physical and Health Education, my initial reaction was that this was another case of using social media just for the sake of it.  However, the more I read about social media use in health and physical education the more benefits I see.

For the purpose of this blog post, I would like to use Wikipedia’s definition of social media. “Social media is the social interaction among people in which they create, share or exchange information and ideas in virtual communities and networks.”

Switching gears slightly while remaining on the topic of social media, my wife gave birth to our first child in February.  Since then, she developed a network of new mothers with children around the same age as our daughter.  Several of the group members have already talked about a second child but felt like they wanted to increase their core strength before putting their bodies through the stress of another pregnancy.  One way they came up with to prepare for this was to start to run together, but that wasn’t always feasible because of schedules.  Instead, they decided to utilize social media.  Each group member downloaded the same smartphone app, Couch-to-5k, by Active Network.  The app allowed them to track their individual progress, be each others cheerleaders, and allowed them to send each other motivational messages of support.  They also found the benefits of collectively sharing technical running knowledge.  If adults enjoy motivationally driven collaborate exercise, then why not kids?

Vollum discusses the potential of social media use in health and physical education by discovering how health and wellness programs outside of education are currently using social media.  He also uses existing research on the topic of social media, which exists in general education.  His argument is simple. If the use of social media in healthy living is useful outside of education and is already being used in other areas of education then perhaps, it might be beneficial to include in health living curriculums in schools.

According to a recent Media Smarts article titled, Young Canadians In A Wired World, 99% of students surveyed from grades 4-11 had access to the Internet outside of school.  81% of those students also used social media that included but was not limited to Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ (Steeves, 2014)

 

Vollum’s research looked at three areas of social media and education:

  1. The relationship between social interaction and the educational experience.
    1. Vollum found that social media has the potential to increase social presence, a feeling of connectedness towards others, which can lead to  brighter educational experience and greater accomplishment (Vollum, 2014)
  2. The relationship between social media and social interaction.
    1. Vollum found that when information can be personalized it becomes more meaningful to the learner, and social media can increase the sense of belonging and connectedness with a prolonged membership on social media (Greenhow, 2011)
  3. The relationship between social media and community and personal physical and health education outside of the K-12 setting.
    1. Social media has the opportunity to develop relationships and partnerships in health and behavior changes thus increasing the communication, which can lead to increasing levels of education (Hanson et al., 2011)
    2. Students in today’s world are already using social media in their educational setting. If increased social presence improves education and a large percentage of students are discussing education already then it would seem reasonable to say that social media use in a K-12 physical/health education environment can increase the educational experience and/or achievement (Vollum, 2014)


The Continuum of Social Media Use in Health and Physical Education

Social Media Continuum - Healthy Living

When one looks at current social media use in health and physical education, a clear hierarchy of practical use is visible.  At the base level, organizations that promote healthy living and physical education in partnership with schools have developed a passive form of interaction to deliver their message.  Healthy living champions typically utilize a webpage, or social media spaces such as Twitter, YouTube, Google+, or Facebook.  Users with an interest in healthy living visit the site to review documents and multimedia resources.  An example of this is the Action Schools BC website, which may be referred to as passive social media use.

When K-12 schools move away from passive social media use to enhance healthy living they take a step closer toward using social media to its full potential.  Teacher-centered social media use is the next logical step in the continuum towards Learner-centered social media use.  In this stage, teachers use social media to create profiles and logs for students to record data about their healthy living experiences.  An example of this is Steps Count, which provides a platform for teachers to set up a class to track and chart student’s step counts using pedometers.

Schools may say they use social media to its full potential, when learners work collaboratively outside of the classroom and without direct influence from their teachers to develop independent, healthy living habits.  An example of this is Zombies, Run! which has amassed over 800 000 members worldwide.  Players combine social media with physical activity.

In contrast to the clear benefits of Zombies, Run!  Meyer, in his Handbook of Multimedia Learning, disagrees with the use of multimedia agents of learning.  In our case, Mayer would say that the feedback delivered by the narrator and zombie in the running app may not lead to increased motivation and learning.  Meyer states, Well designed studies find that when the effects of well designed instructional methods provided by the agent are separated from the effects of the presence of the agents, no learning benefits are found (Mayer, 2005).  If I gave my learners the option of running around the school track, or running around the community while listening to a highly interactive adventure, I’m pretty sure which option they would take.

 

Benefits of Social Media Use In Physical and Health Education

There are many advantages of including social media use in K-12 healthy living curriculum.  Coaches may use video to capture and analyze a performed skill before sharing it with members of a team to learn from.  Younger students could use social media to track their eating habits and compare it with other children around the world.  Teacher can use the power of social to add elements of gameplay into physical education, which may grab the attention of the sedentary video game generation.

 

References

Greenhow, C. (2011). Online social networks and learning. On the Horizon, 19(1), 4–12. doi:10.1108/10748121111107663

 

Hanson, C., West, J., Neiger, B., Thackeray, R., Barnes, M., & McIntyre, E. (2011). Use and Acceptance of Social Media Among Health Educators. American Journal of Health Education, 42(4), 197–204. doi:10.1080/19325037.2011.10599188

 

Mayer, R. E. (2005). The Cambridge handbook of multimedia learning. IThe Cambridge Handbook of Multimedia Learning (Vol. 16, p. 663). doi:10.1075/idj.16.1.13pel

 

Steeves, V. (2014). Life Online.

 

Vollum, M. J. (2014). The potential for social media use in K-12 physical and health education. Computers in Human Behavior, 35, 560–564. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2014.02.035

 

MEd Research Focus: An Exploration In Networked Learning

This blog posting marks the first in a series of posts documenting the process of narrowing down a research interest and developing a research question for my Masters of Education in Educational Technology final project.  You can follow my journey by selecting the tag, ‘Research Focus’ on the sidebar.

Educational technology combines learning theory with science and technology resources to assist learners to meet individual and collective goals.  I see the power educational technology can have on our world when we use it to create more efficient and effective ways of doing things rather than use technology as a substitute for an existing task.  I like to think that our world is a little more connected.  Thanks to technology and science, learning can happen anytime and anywhere across cultures and, time zones, political boundaries, and languages barriers.

IMG_2203

At this point of the journey, I have several areas of research interest, which include networked learning and the sharing of knowledge, motivation, engagement, and inquiry learning.  I am fascinated by what the future of schools might look like as we continue to make advances in science and technology, and I am inspired by leaders in my field such as Will Richardson, Sugata Mitra.  Will Richardson envisions a different kind of school than that which exists in many public schools in North America today.  He champions a school based on discovery rather than delivery.  I agree with his philosophy about, “Asking questions, working with others to find the answers, doing real work for real audiences, and adding to, not simply taking from, the storehouse of knowledge that the Web is becoming.”  Sugata Mitra’s work with The School In The Cloud and his research on self-organized learning is also intriguing.  Gaining learner attention and attempting to sustain it through intrinsic motivation is one of the most challenging aspects of my job.  I believe part of the problem is that school isn’t relevant enough for some of the students I teach.  Technology and science can, in my mind, work towards making school more relevant when combine with inquiry and choice learning.

One idea I am currently exploring for my final project focuses on the sharing of knowledge. I often end up asking myself the question, who has the knowledge? And how do I access it?  An idea I am pursuing involves developing a skill/knowledge repository or database that would connect teachers, students, parents, and their community together.  For example, let’s say I am a teacher who is looking to develop their numeracy practice.  Who has the knowledge/skills in their school, district, or community, and how do we connect those people together.  If I have a classroom teacher and one of my students expresses an interest in animal biology, who can I connect them with, in the community, so they can continue their passion for learning about the subject.  It boils down to my belief that it takes more than a classroom teacher to educator a child.  I believe that there are people within and outside of the education system with valuable skills and knowledge who would be more than willing to share their knowledge and time, free of charge, if they knew what they had to offer was sort after.  A skill repository database would allow teachers to mentor each other and work on their craft.  For example, if I am a teacher looking to rework my science lessons based on new brain research or changing Ministry of Education curriculum guidelines, but science is not my speciality I could use the database to find a local teacher to mentor me.  In contrast, those offering to share their knowledge and have their skills included in the database would have the freedom to advertise how they would like to mentor.  I imagine some people would be more than happy to open up their classroom and invite teachers/students in to see work in practice while others might be more conformable meeting at a coffee shop to share resources.  Flexibility and convenience are the keys to developing such an idea.

There are many learning theories, which complement my pedagogy and represent a suitable framework from which to pursue my project, but I’m having difficulty narrowing them down. Educational technology lends itself well to the constructivist and motivational and humanists learning theories.  I like Mihály Csíkszentmihályi’s Flow Theory were participants who are engaged in an activity that is suitably challenging experience of sustained periods of focus and active engagement.  In this mental zone, learners stay motivated and experience high levels of enjoyment.

I have made the decision to share, openly, the process of developing my MEd document and final project, and it can view here.  There isn’t much in it now, but by this time next year it should be well on the way to being completed.

The Changing Role Of The Teacher In The Digital Age

In my latest #tiegrad class I was invited to discus the changing role of the teacher in the digital age.

 

Three Distinct Relationship Changes For Teachers In The Digital Age

 

Richardson, W. (2012) understood the changing role of the teacher when he stated, “In this new story, real learning happens anytime, anywhere, with anyone we like – not just with a teacher and some same age peers, in a classroom from September to June. More importantly, it happens around the things we learners choose to learn, not what someone else tells us to learn.” (p. 1).

Introduction

In order to understand the changing role of the teacher in the 21st Century, it is important to consider the historical role of the teacher. For centuries, direct instruction was the pedagogy of the day. The teacher held the position of absolute authoritative power and was the holder, and dispenser, of knowledge. Students worked to achieve curricular objectives designed and assessed by the teacher, and were given extrinsic motivators like grades and rewards as reasons to memorize information and demonstrate understanding of taught concepts. In contrast, the digital age represents an important time of educational change. The role of the teacher is evolving as new, digital, epistemologies form in an increasingly connected and networked world. In classrooms and schools around the globe, teachers are changing their methods to better suit the increased use of digital technologies available in education. Advances in technology have led to a more networked and connected world, and has given rise to a myriad of useful resources. Classrooms today are no longer confined to one specific educational theory, or limited by physical space. Education is no longer just about delivering curriculum in a way to actively engage the student in the room; it is about access to information. Active engagement and active learning have now become interactive learning. Teachers and students now co-learn across school districts, provinces, and countries. They share, collaborate and create information with a simple keystroke, click of the mouse, or via video conferencing available on their mobile devices (Thiele, Mai, & Post, 2014). The changing role of the teacher in the digital age can be characterized by three distinct relationship changes; between teacher and student, teacher and curriculum, and teacher and pedagogy.

Teacher with student

One fundamental change teacher’s face in the digital age is the change in the teacher-student relationship. According to Lemley, Schumacher, & Vesey (2014), “The 21st-century student will expect the 21st-century learning environment to provide opportunities creating a different role for the teacher” (p.6). In this version of school, the learning environment is flexible and dynamic. Learning is no longer restricted to the confines of the regular school day. It extends to the home, the community, and beyond. Learners prefer not to have education confined to the classroom, but want to have the freedom to be able to learn at any time and in any place (Rosen, 2011, p.5). Another shift between learner and teacher revolves around exploring curriculum together. Learning is a shared experience between teacher and learner. At one time, the relationship between teacher and learner was hierarchical in nature. The teacher was the dispenser of knowledge and communication between student and educator was one-way. That model no longer provides the best learning experiences for students. In the digital age, teachers are learning with their students through co-learning and collaboration. These methods form the basis of personalized learning.

Teacher with curriculum

Teachers are re-examining their relationship with curriculum and are moving from a teacher-centred perspective to a student-centred perspective. British Columbia’s version of this change in curriculum and pedagogy coined the BC Education Plan. Government of British Columbia (2013) states, “Our education system is based on a model of learning from an earlier century. To change that, we need to put students at the centre of their own learning” (p. 2). A move towards student-centred learning refocuses on the interests of the child rather than others involved in the education process. Teachers are making changes to their curriculum to include periods of inquiry learning. Exploring the path of inquiry learning with students follows a constructivist theory of education. Self-directed in nature, inquiry learning develops critical and creative thinking skills; skills learners will need in order to be successful in the future. Maiers, A., & Sandvold, A. (2010), talk about the importance of student-centred learning in The Passion Driven Classroom. They relate inquiry learning to finding learner’s passions and say, “It will be the passion that students hold, not for every subject, but for the ACT and PRIVILEGE of learning that will allow them to reach rigorous outcomes and excellence” (p. 6). When teachers move curriculum from methods of talk and show to methods of inquiry, they focus on each student’s passions, abilities, and learning styles; thus, allowing the teacher to move from a position of administering to facilitating learning. In addition, when teachers integrate inquiry methods in their curriculum, they honour the importance of student voice and recognise that it is central to the learning experience for every student.

In a student-centred classroom, students choose what they will learn, how they will learn, and how they will assess their learning. Student-centred learning requires students to be active, responsible participants in their learning. This aligns with Thiele, Mai, & Post (2014) findings in their research on learning in the 21st Century, “The implementation of technology can enhance learning by making the classroom more active and student-centered”(p. 1). In the digital age, teachers have a variety of tools and resources available to create curriculum with students, invite learners to discover the pleasures of lifelong learning, and open the classroom up to a global audience. According to the Government of British Columbia (2013), “Curriculum will increasingly emphasize key concepts, deeper knowledge, and more meaningful understanding of subject matter, and give teachers the flexibility they need to personalize their students’ learning experiences” (p. 3). Dewey, J. (1929) also realized the importance of student-centered learning in My Pedagogic Creed when he wrote, “The true centre of correlation of the school subjects is not science, nor literature, nor history, nor geography, but the child’s own social activities” (p. 4).

Teacher with pedagogy

If pedagogy is the art and science of educating (Webb 2012), then the relationship between teacher and pedagogy has changed dramatically in the digital age. Assessment practices, professional development opportunities, and a stronger understanding of how students learn best are reshaping relationships between teachers and their craft. Assessment practices have moved from ‘assessment of learning’ to ‘assessment for learning’; from teacher-directed assessment to peer and self-assessment. All this points to the learner becoming an active participant in the learning process. Advances in digital technologies have created complex assessment experiences, such as game-based assessments and online collaborative problem-solving. A wider variety of participants are invited into the assessment cycle including peers and outside experts. According to Webb (2014) there is, “Increasing evidence that uses of technologies are producing persistent changes in children’s brains and hence changing their capacity and capabilities for learning” (p. 10). Neuroscience is growing rapidly, and teachers are incorporating the latest brain research into their practice, specifically to assist in developing self-regulated learning skills. New digital technologies allow educators to engage in personalized, professional development, strengthen pedagogies, and create learning communities that cultivate professional relationships outside of school buildings. Collaboration in the digital age enables teachers to reach out and connect with like-minded educators. Historically, teachers developed their pedagogy through a combination of curriculum documents, colleagues, workshops, and other professional development opportunities. The digital age has changed the way teachers develop their pedagogy. Networked teachers continue to develop their practice around traditional methods, but also embrace new technologies such as video conferences, social networking services, and online learning communities. Couros, G (2010) agrees with the importance of a collaborative pedagogy, “We must ensure that we are working together as an educator community to continue to move education forward.”

Conclusion

Relationships teachers have with their learners, curriculum, and pedagogy are changing rapidly in this time of digital enlightenment. Early educational theorists such as Dewey and Montessori understood the needs of learners and the constraints of curriculum. Digital technologies have allowed teachers to realize the dreams of early educational theorists. Educators no longer need to work in isolation. They have the knowledge and resources to facilitate learning by exploring curriculum with their learners. When teachers revisit their relationships with learners, curriculum, and pedagogy in the 21st Century, they create innovative change to the education system and encourage children to thrive in a dynamic and rapidly evolving world. They accept that students must be at the centre of a more personalized approach to learning and must be given the freedom to pursue their individual interests and passions in the classroom.

References:

Abrami, P. C., Venkatesh, V., Meyer, E. J., & Wade, C. A. (2013). Using electronic portfolios to foster literacy and self-regulated learning skills in elementary students. Journal of Educational Psychology, 105(4), 1188–1209. doi:10.1037/a0032448

Couros, G. (2010). The power of working together.  The principal of change: stories of learning and leading. Retrieved from http://georgecouros.ca/blog/archives/1020.

Dewey, J. (1929). My Pedagogic Creed. In I. D. Flinders & S. Thorton (Eds.), The Curriculum Studies Reader (pp. 34–43). New York: Routledge.

Government of British Columbia. (2013). BC ’ s Education Plan, 1 – 9.

Lemley, J., Schumacher, G., & Vesey, W. (2014). What learning environments best address 21st-century students’ perceived needs at the secondary level of instruction? NASSP Bulletin. doi:10.1177/0192636514528748

Maiers, A., & Sandvold, A. (2010). 1 Achievement gap or passion gap? The passion-driven classroom: a framework for teaching and learning (p. 6). Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.

Richardson, W. (2012). Part 1: old school. Why School? How Education Must Change when Learning and Information are Everywhere (eBook) (p.1). TED Conferences. Retrieved from http://www.amazon.ca/Why-School-Education-Information-Everywhere-ebook/dp/B00998J5YQ

Rosen, L. D. (2011). Teaching the iGeneration. Educational Leadership, 68, 10–15. Retrieved from http://web.ebscohost.com.libdata.lib.ua.edu/ehost/detail?sid=3dc15bba-9972-4ca4-adb4-892d68f5a898@sessionmgr110&vid=31&hid=10&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ==#db=aph&AN=58108032.

Thiele, A. K., Mai, J. a, & Post, S. (2014). The Student-Centered Classroom of the 21st Century : Integrating Web 2 . 0 Applications and Other Technology to Actively Engage Students. Journal of Physical Therapy Education, 28(1).

Webb, M. (2012). Pedagogy with information and communications technologies in transition. Education and Information Technologies, 1–20. doi:10.1007/s10639-012-9216-x.

 

 

Self-Regulated Learning In A Changing Educational Landscape

Point Of View: The Importance Of Self-Regulated Learning In A Changing Educational Landscape.

 

The landscape of education is on the precipice of change.  Digital technologies have removed the need to follow an educational epistemology based on the pursuit of knowledge.  Montessori (1918) saw the need for change when she said, “We know only too well the sorry spectacle of the teacher who in the ordinary schoolroom must pour certain cut and dried facts into the heads of the scholars” (p. 28). In order to develop higher-level thinking skills, our youngest learners must enter an education system, which follows themes of inquiry and is learner-centred.  In order for learners to be successful in a system built on inquiry, they must develop robust self-regulated learning (SRL) strategies to take control of their own learning, and reach their full potential. Developing students’ self-regulated learning skills can demystify assessment, increase student engagement and motivation, and form the basis of productive collaborative learning communities.

 

Assessment can be a debilitating experience for many students.  Vaughan found that the four most common words associated with assessment were: fear, stress, anxiety, and judgment (Vaughan, N., Cleveland-Innes, M., & Garrison, D. R. 2013). Self-regulated learners are able to control their environment, evaluate their work, and determine how to adapt their learning to increase performance.  They understand the assessment and feedback cycle, and use it to their advantage.  Self-regulated learners are also cognizant of their academic strengths and weaknesses, and can fully utilize instructor feedback, as well as engage in peer and self-assessment practices.  Digital technologies such as blogs, wikis, collaborative writing tools, and other social media resources can provide students with increased flexibility and communication opportunities to engage in all aspects of assessment. According to Vaughan, Cleveland-Innes, and Garrison (2013), learners cannot observe, analyze, and judge their own performances on the basis of criteria and determine how they can improve without being self-regulated learners. Effeney, Carroll, and Bahr (2013) agreed when they said”Self-regulated learners… monitor their learning by seeking feedback on their performance and by making appropriate adjustments for future learning activities” (p. 774).

 

There exists in our schools today a motivation and engagement gap in learners.  This gap stems from a disconnect between how students learn best and how instructors teach.  Improving self-regulated learning skills in children from an early age can help bridge this gap.  Dabbagh and Kitsantas (2012) found,  “The motivational components of self-regulated learning help students persist in the face of difficult tasks and resist other sometimes more tempting options” (p. 6). Developing the behavioural and emotional states of children is paramount before engaging in any other type of learning. In order for learners to engage with content in the classroom, they need to be present in the learning experience and be active participants.  Regulating behaviour and emotions can help learners to focus, enhance self-belief, and develop the grit they need to embrace success and failure on the way to achieving their goals. According to Clark (2012),  “SRL is predictive of improved academic outcomes and motivation because students acquire the adaptive and autonomous learning characteristics required for an enhanced engagement with the learning process and subsequent successful performance” (p. 205).  Explicitly teaching self-reflection and metacognitive skills to learners can develop higher-level thinking skills, which enhance motivation and increase engagement.

 

Self-regulated learning skills also form the basis of active collaborative learning communities, and can help develop a successful framework.  Organization, motivation, and collaboration are essential factors in the success of any collaborative learning community.  Borup et al. (2014) found, “Researchers have suggested that without adequate organization, online students will procrastinate, especially students with special needs” (p. 115).  Dewey (1929) says, “I believe that the individual who is to be educated is a social individual, and that society is an organic union of individuals. If we eliminate the social factor from the child we are left only with an abstraction” (p. 34). If learning is socialand involves interactions between learners, instructors, peers, and community, then it is important to prepare students with the emotional, responsive, and reflective skills they need to be successful in these areas.

 

In summary, if we want the next generation of students to be self-directed, autonomous, and life-long learners, we must instil the strategies of self-regulated learning into all areas of education, including assessment, motivating and engaging designs for learning, and across all collaborative learning communities.  Essential self-regulation skills such as metacognition, self-efficacy, and self-reflection combined with social skills such as regulating emotions, perseverance, and behaviour are key indicators for success in our changing educational landscape.  The increasing use of digital technologies arm the self-regulated learner with the tools, collaborative learning spaces, and resources to reach self-determined goals and targets, and take control of their own learning.

 

References:

Borup, J., West, R. E., Graham, C. R., & Davies, R. S. (2014). The Adolescent Community of Engagement: A Framework for Research on Adolescent Online Learning. Journal of Technology and Teacher Education, 22(1), 107–129.

Clark, I. (2012). Formative assessment: assessment is for self-regulated learning. Educational Psychology Review, 24(2), 205–249. doi:10.1007/s10648-011-9191-6

Dabbagh, N., & Kitsantas, A. (2012). Personal learning environments, social media, and self-regulated learning: a natural formula for connecting formal and informal learning. The Internet and Higher Education, 15(1), 3–8. doi:10.1016/j.iheduc.2011.06.002

Dewey, J. (1929). My Pedagogic Creed. In D. Flinders & S. Thornton (Eds.),
The Curriculum Studies Reader (pp. 34 – 41). New York: Routledge.

Effeney, G., Carroll, A., & Bahr, N. (2013). Self-regulated learning and executive function: exploring the relationships in a sample of adolescent males. Educational Psychology, 33(7), 773–796. doi:10.1080/01443410.2013.785054

Montessori, M. (1918). A Critical Consideration of the New Pedagogy in its Relation to Modern Science. In D. Flinders & S. Thornton (Eds.), The Curriculum Studies Reader (pp. 22 – 33). New York: Routledge.

Vaughan, N., Cleveland-Innes, M., & Garrison, D. R. (2013). Assessment (Chapter 5). Teaching in blended learning environments, AU Press, Athabasca University. [Retrieved from http://www.aupress.ca/books/120229/ebook/99Z_Vaughan_et_al_2013-Teaching_in_Blended_Learning_Environments.pdf, July 17, 2014.]

 

20 Research Papers On Self-Regulated Learning

Within the context of k-12 schools, I used to think self-regulated learning was limited to regulating the behaviour and emotions of the students; However, thanks to the likes of Phil Winne, Allyson Hadwin, and Mariel Miller I realize it’s so much more.  In its simplest form, self-regulation speaks to the skills students need to become independent life-long learners.

Phil Winne from SFU Education on Vimeo.

In my latest #tiegrad class I was asked to compile a short bibliography of twenty recent (2013-2014) articles on the topic of my choice – self-regulated learning:

Belski, R., & Belski, I. (2014). Cultivating student skills in self-regulated learning through evaluation of task complexity. Teaching in Higher Education, 19(5), 459–469. doi:10.1080/13562517.2014.880685

Bjork, R. a, Dunlosky, J., & Kornell, N. (2013). Self-regulated learning: beliefs, techniques, and illusions. Annual Review of Psychology, 64, 417–44. doi:10.1146/annurev-psych-113011-143823

Butler, D. L., & Winne, P. H. (2014). Feedback and Self-Regulated Learning: A Theoretical Synthesis. Review of Educational Research, 65(3), 245–281.

Cheng, G., & Chau, J. (2013). Exploring the relationship between students’ self-regulated learning ability and their ePortfolio achievement. The Internet and Higher Education, 17, 9–15. doi:10.1016/j.iheduc.2012.09.005

Clark, I. (2012). Formative assessment: assessment is for self-regulated learning. Educational Psychology Review, 24(2), 205–249. doi:10.1007/s10648-011-9191-6

Dabbagh, N., & Kitsantas, A. (2012). Personal learning environments, social media, and self-regulated learning: a natural formula for connecting formal and informal learning. The Internet and Higher Education, 15(1), 3–8. doi:10.1016/j.iheduc.2011.06.002

DiDonato, N. C. (2012). Effective self- and co-regulation in collaborative learning groups: an analysis of how students regulate problem solving of authentic interdisciplinary tasks. Instructional Science, 41(1), 25–47. doi:10.1007/s11251-012-9206-9

Effeney, G., Carroll, A., & Bahr, N. (2013). Self-regulated learning and executive function: exploring the relationships in a sample of adolescent males. Educational Psychology, 33(7), 773–796. doi:10.1080/01443410.2013.785054

Friedrich, A., Jonkmann, K., Nagengast, B., Schmitz, B., & Trautwein, U. (2013). Teachers’ and students’ perceptions of self-regulated learning and math competence: differentiation and agreement. Learning and Individual Differences, 27, 26–34. doi:10.1016/j.lindif.2013.06.005

Järvelä, S., & Hadwin, A. F. (2013). New frontiers: regulating learning in CSCL. Educational Psychologist, 48(1), 25–39. doi:10.1080/00461520.2012.748006

Major, A., Martinussen, R., & Wiener, J. (2013). Self-efficacy for self-regulated learning in adolescents with and without attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Learning and Individual Differences, 27, 149–156. doi:10.1016/j.lindif.2013.06.009

Marchis, I. (2011). Primary school teachers’ self-regulated learning skills. Acta Didactica Napocensia, 4(4), 11–18. Retrieved from http://adn.teaching.ro/

Metallidou, P. (2012). Epistemological beliefs as predictors of self-regulated learning strategies in middle school students. School Psychology International, 34(3), 283–298. doi:10.1177/0143034312455857

Perry, N., & Drummond, L. (2014). Helping young students become self-regulated researchers and writers. The Reading Teacher, 56(3), 298–310.

Samruayruen, B., Enriquez, J., Natakuatoong, O., & Samruayruen, K. (2013). Self-regulated learning: a key of a successful learner in online learning environments in thailand. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 48(1), 45–69. doi:10.2190/EC.48.1.c

Sha, L., Chen, W., & Zhang, B. H. (2012). Understanding mobile learning from the perspective of self-regulated learning. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 28(4), 366–378. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2729.2011.00461.x

Shi, Y., Frederiksen, C. H., & Muis, K. R. (2013). A cross-cultural study of self-regulated learning in a computer-supported collaborative learning environment. Learning and Instruction, 23, 52–59. doi:10.1016/j.learninstruc.2012.05.007

Stefanou, C., Stolk, J. D., Prince, M., Chen, J. C., & Lord, S. M. (2013). Self-regulation and autonomy in problem- and project-based learning environments. Active Learning in Higher Education, 14(2), 109–122. doi:10.1177/1469787413481132

Throndsen, I. (2011). Self-regulated learning of basic arithmetic skills: a longitudinal study. The British Journal of Educational Psychology, 81(Pt 4), 558–78. doi:10.1348/2044-8279.002008

Tsai, C.-W., Shen, P.-D., & Fan, Y.-T. (2013). Research trends in self-regulated learning research in online learning environments: a review of studies published in selected journals from 2003 to 2012. British Journal of Educational Technology, 44(5), E107–E110. doi:10.1111/bjet.12017

Wang, C., Shannon, D. M., & Ross, M. E. (2013). Students’ characteristics, self-regulated learning, technology self-efficacy, and course outcomes in online learning. Distance Education, 34(3), 302–323.

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

The Science of Motiviation

photo (46)

 

 

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?

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