Active Learning
Figure 1 – old versus new models of schooling and Learning
Old Model
New Model
Reform existing schools
Create new schools
Larger schools
Smaller schools
Delivering education
Students learning
Read books, listen to talk
Explore the Web
Any time/any place
Technology as textbook
Technology as research
Groups, classes
Time is fixed
Time is variable
Cover material
Understand key ideas
Who and what
Why and how
Know things
Apply knowledge
Over-reliance on multiple – choice tests
Written/Oral demonstrations
Testing for accountability
Testing for understanding
“Make ‘em”
“Motivate ‘em”
Teachers serve administrators
Administrators serve teachers
Administrative management
Professional partnership
Adult interests dominate
Student interests dominate
Active Learning verses Passive Learning with Technology

Teachers, Technology, Learning

Technology is sometimes equated with better teaching. The assumption is that technology is the road to improved learning.

It's much more complicated than that. Technology consists of a wide and varied set of tools that alter our relationships with each other and our relationships with the world.
In particular technology tends to mitigate or overcome the limitations and tyranny of distance. It can also enhance, or hamper communication. It can hyper-stimulate. It can obfuscate.
Teachers using technology blindly and without reflection are at best playing a hit and miss game.
I talk with teachers who seem to feel guilty because they feel they should 'use technology more' - such a vague and general statement. Introducing technology into a class for the sake of it, out of some general sense that technology = good, may only have the effect of undermining the best thing going for the class - the energy of a real life passionate teacher.
That in some sense technology threatens to do away with the teaching role altogether - or to disrupt it. I teach online French. My students barely need me. And they perform better than face to face students doing the same course. My school offers lots of online courses, and we see the same pattern across the board.
So what's the new role of the teacher when the content of the course can be taught without a human being?. We generally prefer interactions in our learning. We're not robots and it's no fun learning by staring at a computer screen. There's nothing like an informed, entertaining and persuasive orator.
On the other hand, busing in 1,000 students into a High School, sitting them down in boxes and getting
them to copy off the board can be done away with. As can sitting down students in a computer room and telling them to type an essay response. The teacher is serving no role except as dictator, director, baby-er, babying the students, spoon feeding them, rendering thempassive.
High School teacher Andrew Douch uses podcasts to deliver much of the basic content of the biology course. Students work through them when and where they want, at a pace that suits. They can repeat sections, skip other sections. His role is re-invented - and his face to face classes are for discussion, exploration, student-driven experimentation.
I've moved down a very similar path and never want to look back.
Give me technology pushed to its logical conclusion, where I can learn unhampered, free from being bossed around by the teacher-king whose subject I am.
Or give me a room with some peers and one or more enthusiastic experts in the field, and let's just see what we can do when we bring our creative energies together. I'll thank the expert on the way out for spending time in a room with me helping me to delver deeper into the field.
What purpose then, for classic 9am to 3pm schooling, in little battery boxes? I predict (hope) that the traditional school structures will break down over the coming years. It may be a slow erosion as students begin to outsource certain subjects to alternative providers, or it may come suddenly. I hope it happens.
That students who are used to passive learning kick and scream when prompted to take an active role.
Our online students find online study difficult. My students find themselves backed into a corner. They have no teacher bossing them around. They have to take control, take initiative. They almost always end up rising to the occasion, gaining in the process entrepreneurial skills that will benefit them for life.
But almost universally they don't like the switch!
Don't expect your students to thank you any time soon if you start stepping back from a directing role and require them to start driving the learning process.
Group work
Group work

In conclusion, I see a very complex relationship between people, technology and teaching. Technology can be a tool for subduing students, pacifying them.
It can also be a tool for liberating students from the constraints inherent in the industrial model of teaching.
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"Ppl need to realize that this is EMBEDDED practice, not an add-on, and not about tech. About learning. Thats it!" -@gcouros

The quote above summarizes this Tuesday evening @edchat discussion on how we can move from a "Tech Tool" mentality to a "Learning Tool" mentality. All the talk about integrating technology and increasing teacher technology literacy isn't about the latest and greatest in technology at all. It's about harnessing these revolutionary learning tools for learning purposes, about meeting 21st century learners on their terms and teaching them how to use the tools necessary for survival and success in today's world. To read more on meaningful, purposeful integration of technology, check out 5 Questions for Planning Successful Web-based Activities.

Overcoming Our Fears and Assumptions

For some reason, technology is a scary word to many, especially teachers. This is so strange since to me since our society relies on technology tools for almost everything we do - especially when it comes to learning and productivity. Technology is the vehicle by which our society access content. It is our responsibility as 21st century educators to teach, model, and integrate appropriate and effective use for our students. As pointed out in #edchat, utilizing technology as a learning tool is not solely for the purpose of motivating, captivating, and engaging students, it is a necessity.
We often make the assumption that kids are ahead of us in terms of technology, however when it comes to using technology as learning tools we are usually wrong in this assumption. Students must be taught how to view and utilize the tools at their fingertips for educational, and not solely entertainment, purposes.

5 Tips for Harnessing Technology as a Learning Tool

  • Go out of your comfort zone! Take the time to explore and learn by getting your own hands dirty with technology before asking your teachers or students to do so. Don't be afraid to fail or ask for help and give your teachers and students a chance to do so as well.
  • Transform your professional development by emphasizing, modeling, and utilizing technology as teacher learning tools. Teachers must see the relevance and necessity of these learning tools before they will be comfortable using them with their students.
  • Begin with desired learning outcomes. Align all integration in a purposeful way. Teach the use of these learning tools in context with content.
  • Collaborate among and between teachers. For example, technology teachers and English teachers should be working together to design interdisciplinary units like Mrs. Sivick's Fourth Grade technology class.
  • Create a digital toolbox like this one including resources, lessons, projects, "unprojects", ideas, and examples of technology tools as learning tools for your teachers and students.
An interesting question was asked during the discussion that went unanswered; "Where can teachers go to see cool stuff to do with these new learning tools?" If your school or district has not yet created a digital toolbox, as described above, begin by building your own professional learning network or attend or plan a local edcamp to get amazing resources and ideas.
My biggest takeaways from #edchat were that as with all great learning, one size does not fit all. We must teach our students to utilize technology as a learning tool, give them the freedom to decide which tools work best for them in different contexts, and the power to "create and innovate rather than regurgitate" (@ketheredge).
Photo from Michael Peterson's+Google+Reader)&utm_content=Twitter
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