Constructing learning spaces

Many of the tweets I follow are links to other online resources. A few of them focus on transforming education. One transformation that needs to take place are the learning spaces in which kids learn. The traditional learning space has desks neatly in rows, chairs pushed in, a book shelf and such. Ryan Bretag says this well:

In many classrooms, the picture is all too familiar: desks in rows, a clear front of the classroom, podium off-center in the front, etc..

This has been widely written about in other places so I need not summarize what is meant by a learning space. Learning spaces, physical or online, cannot be an after thought as we engage digital learners in the 21st Century.

As I think about my own teaching I come back to the idea that I like students constructing knowledge vs. downloading it. This is tough for kids to do because it requires thinking beyond the page of notes the teacher has provided, or the PowerPoint slides. Students just struggle with this because they are not told how to learn it, or if it is an activity, how to complete it. This means kids have to use their brain power to link concepts together, evaluate them, or deconstruct ideas to get to the real meaning. Because I like knowledge constructed, how I set up my online spaces matters to students for if the learning space is confusing, so is the learning. Here is an example. The sixth graders I teach need to have a strong working knowledge of Google Apps for Education at BBHCSD because all of their work, more like most of it, will be created in this suite. So, the first thing I taught was how to get around and Google Drive. I led a discussion about creating a voice presentation and that images as screenshots needed to be taken. The screenshots were taken and then viewed as a VoiceThread about how to make a VoiceThread. Well, I thought it was straight forward until I saw students really had no idea how to conceptually put it all together. In this case, the learning space called VoiceThread posed the problem, and the learning was confusing because VT forces someone to construct their learning by putting pictures and thoughts together in a comprehensive sequence.

A few ideas I think about when constructing an online learning space:

  1. Start with the end in mind. What is the assessment or product?
  2. Know your goals and clearly explain these to the students.
  3. Facilitate learning and not just downloading it to kids.
  4. Connect generalizations you want kids to learn.
  5. Have students reflect on their learning throughout the project.

photo credit: ckaroli via photo pin cc

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