Friday, June 01, 2012

Online Learning - Making it Meaningful

IMHO it is not enough that learning be online - it has to make sense and have meaning. It is not enough for us to take our classes and put them online - we have to create engaging material. So, I ponder this question...

I had a teacher in high school who drew on the chalkboard. She made explosions around words and used color chalk. I started to do the same thing in my notebook. It was not the words that mattered to me so much, but the drawings, but the words stuck and I started to get it. In fact, I still believe today she instilled in me back then a love of history I carry with me and it all started with funny drawings around words (oh, and the great narratives she told about these historical characters).

Making content come alive is the most interesting part of education to me. When I think of putting a class online I think about making the vast web of material available for my students to explore, consume, play with and understand. I have to step outside of what I know and ask them how they want to learn this material today. These are the thoughts that are captivating me. I remember in September of this school year having a conversation with someone and I said - well, tablets are great but they are not utilitarian. Then I started thinking about this differently. Tablets can be utilitarian - you just have to rethink how you use them. The same thing is true with online learning. It's not enough to post reading assignments and get material back - you may as well be standing in front of the room. The content needs to be ubiquitous to the environment. This is the challenge I am facing. Making the content meaningful. Students should be creating, experimenting, and actively producing content that they share with each other to develop a meaningful learning experience. Students in the same class have a shared purpose so working collaboratively is a natural. Consider the opportunities of cross generational sharing on projects of historical content, for example.

I listened to the TED Ed with 12 year old Thomas Suarez, he poses the question, where do kids go to learn about how to write apps, they can't go to their parents - "not many parents have written apps!" This gets a big laugh from the audience, but the statement is clear - students are leading the way today and we must listen. Teaching has truly become the learning profession and it is my belief that I want to find the place to blend what I know about teaching with what they know about learning . I welcome your thoughts.