Learning is the focus of education, but how we all learn can be very different, and that is not a bad thing. One of our favorite professional resources for this topic is Dr. Lance Ford, who has a lengthy history in education, specifically in finding technology solutions that are valuable to the classroom. In addition to being a teacher for about twenty-nine years, Dr. Ford also acts as a ZoomRoom Educator, in which he works with educators who are exploring the Zoom platform or need assistance in tying it into the classroom to help students learn.
More importantly, Dr. Ford is excited about the value of learning when it is done in a way that reaches students where they are and inspires them to grow.
The Value of Learning
The goal of learning is to learn something new and help other people with that knowledge to, in turn, enable them to achieve what they want to do. This is the foundational concept of education. However, there are some challenges that should be addressed to facilitate learning, specifically:
- Impacting learners
- Individualizing learning
- Using flipped classrooms
- Understanding that time is boundless for the knowledge transfer process
By exploring what each of these areas means and how they can impact the education process, it can be possible to empower both teachers and students to create an environment tailor-made for learning.
In standard classrooms, the following situation happens in some shape or format:
- A bell rings, signaling the start of class (or for college classes, there is a certain day and time of the week for class)
- Students come to sit in the class
- The teacher begins sharing knowledge with them
- The student takes notes on the knowledge
- The student is able to regurgitate that knowledge back to the teacher via an assessment process
- A student’s understanding of a subject or topic is strongly based on the results of that test or assessment
During the pandemic, learners were impacted differently. Limited remote teaching methods that are quickly employed during an emergency situation, such as moving to learning online, can make it hard to individualize the learning process. Students had multiple challenges to pandemic learning, including:
- Various learning styles
- Unique ways of engaging in content
- Access to technology
- Limited ability to see nonverbal signs if they did not have video capabilities
Yet, because of the experience educators and students had during pandemic-related remote learning, it has yielded more tools that can be used in combination with other methods to individualize learning so that every student can benefit, even when in the classroom. For example, video communications that took place during that time allowed teachers and students to make their lives more relatable to each other as they interacted, adding an important relationship component that enhanced the overall learning experience.
Ways to Individualize Learning for Students When They Are All Unique
Ford believes in starting with the desired outcome and the educator working their way back to the student’s individual level. When an educator programs a student’s interests (or lack thereof) to cross-pollinate with other students to share their perspectives on things, a genuine learning experience can occur. It allows students to relate to each other (even if they are in different places in their education) in a way that might not necessarily happen with their teacher.
As far as students being in different places, educators can enhance the educational experience by taking into account where learners are when they get to the classroom. If students are able to learn from each other through cross-pollination as well as learning from the educator, it provides additional avenues for students to learn from. These can vary from student to student, teacher to student, hands-on projects, or even asynchronous learning. Everyone can learn from each other in some fashion in this type of community.
It is important to remember not every student’s knowledge base may be the same in terms of what educational powers that be determined as a predefined cannon for acceptable outcomes and assessment. However, educators can take what a student knows, bring it into that canon, and then spin that diamond of knowledge to reflect on them where they are and scaffold that knowledge to where they need to go.
Enhancing Classroom Learning Time
While classroom learning time is an asset, there are ways to make that time count for more. Some of Ford’s favorites include flipped learning and personalized video lessons.
In a flipped learning scenario, it includes an educator teaching either at their whiteboard or computer, in addition to audio. These teachings can be recorded and offered to students at night before the next day’s lesson. This can have two positive effects:
- Deeper classroom discussions. Students will come to class ready to discuss ideas on a topic because they already have the basic knowledge from the video. This allows more creativity and interaction for students to learn from their peers and their different ideas. This honors the time a teacher and their students spend in the classroom together, with everyone weighing in and learning from each other instead of listening to a teacher simply disseminate information.
- Personalize learning. Even if the information is already available via the internet or another source, it can have a greater impact on a student when it is their own teacher presenting the information. Students are more apt to approach their teacher with questions if that teacher is the person they learned it from. This also enhances the student-teacher relationship.
Learning Should Be Muli-Faceted
Learning is no respecter of time and location. Learning is applied knowledge. In other words, learning is not confined to the classroom, five days a week during class. Instead, it can happen any time people go to apply knowledge and are struggling with it. They need to get from where they are now, with the information they do not know, to where they need to go.
Time can be boundless for the knowledge transfer process. This means educators should provide kids multiple options for when they learn and then meet them where they are as opposed to where they want them to be. This does not mean teachers should be available 24/7 to their students. What it does mean is that educators should not feel like a failure if they teach an 8 a.m. English class, and the kids are not ready to learn. However, it may require the educator thinking of alternative ways to get information to students outside the confines of the classroom so that time in class can be more lively and productive when the students arrive.
Kids need educators to reach them where they are. Everyone can learn, and everyone can have potential because it is never too late to do the right thing. It simply requires educators to figure out how to move forward in a way that better engages the student.
As educators look to engage students in new ways and have learning take new forms, technology in the classroom is key. Technology should not be restricted to remote instruction but used in a way that can make even classroom-based learning more effective.