Teacher Preparation: Today’s Learning Environments

Note: This post examines the learning environments that relevant teacher preparation programs incorporate.

It’s not about the technology. For decades, educators have taken the position that it’s not the use of technology in and of itself that positively impacts student learning; the key is using technology effectively. I couldn’t agree more.

Yet, it’s also about the technology. In the blog post 21st Century Learning: It’s Not an Either/Or Argument, I outline that, while critical thinking and problem solving, communication, collaboration, and creativity are not new skills, what has changed is how teachers and students engage in these skills via digital tools. Therefore, it is imperative to prepare today’s teachers to navigate these new pathways for learning based on sound curriculum design, pedagogy, assessment practices, and learning management. To determine how teachers of 2030 are prepared, let us first review the various types of learning environments that exist today.

Face-to-Face (F2F): The traditional environment of a classroom teacher, with moderate or little to no technology. In technology-rich environments, iPads, tablets, and the use of educational apps is gaining traction, especially in elementary grades.

Flipped learning is changing how F2F time with students is being used. Although around for several years, the Flipped Learning Conference is in its fifth year, flipped learning is spreading rapidly today. While there is no one model of flipped learning, in a nutshell, teachers create or remix videos for students to view on their own, thus freeing class time for higher-order thinking activities and more customized, personalized instruction for students. Kahn Academy offers numerous videos. And, TED-Ed has stepped into the arena of flipped learning by offering educational videos, along with lessons and assessments that can be customized by a teacher. Further, TED-Ed provides a platform for teachers to share their work, empowering teachers to publish and share their work for a larger audience.

Note: Mobile Learning (see below) can be supported in F2F environments.

Connected Face-to-Face (CF2F): Classes meet each day in a traditional schedule but engagement is enhanced, augmented with digital tools, such as wikis, online discussions, polls, and other Web 2.0 tools, such as online graphic organizers and VoiceThread. While this model has been around for a number of years, it is not the norm. Today, the emergence of Learning Management Systems (LMS) in the cloud, such as Edmodo, Haiku, and others, increases CF2F experiences within a classroom, especially in light of an LMS’s capacity of keeping students protected and safe online within the school’s walled virtual garden. An LMS also supports flipped learning.

Another connected learning approach leveraging cloud and app capabilities uses mobile phones, often referred to as Bring Your Own Learning Device (BYOLD). In one model, schools establish policies for their use, turn off texting and voice features, and then issue mobile phones to students. Still in other models, students bring their own device, whether a mobile phone, tablet, or laptop.

The use of an LMS or BYOLD provides faster formative assessments via quick quizzes, polls, and discussions. If designed effectively, formative assessments provide snapshots of student understanding in meeting the learning objective, thus informing teachers of where to shift instruction so that all students achieve.

Hybrid (Blended): While there are numerous models of hybrid or blended learning, the basic description is that learning takes place F2F and online. Various digital Web 2.0 tools, LMS offerings, BYOLD, and Teen Second Life support hybrid environments.

Online: No F2F instruction takes place, with all instruction taking place online via an LMS and/or other digital tools. While around for a number of years, online learning is increasing, especially as both higher ed and K12 budgets are reduced.

Mobile Learning: In and Out of School

In F2F environments, the use of educational apps on tablets, iPads, or smartphones in K12 is growing. With a wide range of apps available across content areas, including GPS, cameras, mapping tools, and interactive ebooks, students can annotate, create, write, and edit writing and video on a mobile device. Moreover, mobile learning also takes place out of school, connected to the interests and passions of learners, challenging teachers and traditional assessment systems to rethink what learning is and how students “earn credits.”

Shifting Pedagogical Approaches

Teachers must no longer be the sage on the stage but the guide on the side This phrase, which has been with us for many, many years, is now amplified with technology use based on sound pedagogy. As teachers shift away from the lecture, teacher candidates must understand how to orchestrate non-traditional, student-centered learning. It is incumbent upon teacher educators and mentor teachers to guide teacher candidates in leveraging effective practices in various learning environments.

What other learning environments are there? Is your teacher preparation program relevant?

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One response to “Teacher Preparation: Today’s Learning Environments

  1. This is so true.

    It all must start with sound pedagogy and then be delivered individually over technology

    If the traditional, sage on the stage, one to many pedagogy, does not change, individual, long term, deep learning will not occur.

    Why is this? The learning research shows clearly that long term individual learning does not occur this way ( students don’t learn long term this way)

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